WDTPRS – 33rd Ordinary Sunday: thoughts (rant) on the “sign of peace”

This Sunday’s Collect is rich.  The ancient author was skilled.  The translators of the current ICEL version blew it.

We will see where they went wrong and then drill into a pair of words leading us back to the 3rd century.

Our Collect for the 33rd Ordinary Sunday was in the 8th century Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis and also in the more ancient Veronese Sacramentary.

Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine Deus noster, in tua semper devotione gaudere, quia perpetua est et plena felicitas, si bonorum omnium iugiter serviamus auctori.

First, the conditional particle si means “if”. Iugiter (related to “yoke”) and servio (constructed with the dative) are old friends now. We can leave them aside. Briefly, devotio can be read as “a devotion to duty”. Our “devotion” must lead the soul to keep the commandments of God and the duties of our state before all else. If we are devout in respect to God and intent on fulfilling the duties of our state in life as it truly is here and now, then God will give us the actual graces we need to fulfill our vocations. He helps us because we are fulfilling our proper role in His great plan.

I like the parallels between perpetua and iugiter, and plena and omnium followed by felicitas and bonorum.  If you work on it, this is an ABCCBA pattern.  Elegant.


Grant to us, we beseech You, O Lord our God, always to rejoice in Your devotion, for happiness is perpetual and full, if we serve continually the author of all good things.

Pay attention to the ideal conditional statement depending on “si…if” with the subjunctive: Y if X.

I can’t help but think of the many Catholics today who assume that heaven’s rewards are ours automatically without our having to do anything more than just feel good about ourselves.  The fact is, we can lose what Christ won for us through presumption, neglect, laziness, and sin.  Heaven is not automatic.  We must pray for the dead, examine our lives, go to confession, and perform good works.  We must serve.


Father of all that is good, keep us faithful in serving you, for to serve you is our lasting joy.

What were they thinking?


Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good.

FAIL. They eliminated the condition! The Latin says that happiness is perpetual and full, IF we serve God.    They eliminated the protasis of an ideal condition.

Why? Is the condition too demanding?

As it happens, the 2008 “Gray Book” (draft) version had “if” while the 1998 rejected ICEL version suggested the condition through a paraphrase (“for only through our faithfulness to you…”).

Note the words perpetua and felicitas. The Roman Canon (1st Eucharistic Prayer) raises up the names of two ancient martyrs, Sts Felicity and Perpetua. Coincidence? I think not. In the ancient sacramentaries today’s Collect was used for martyrs.

Who are Sts Felicity and Perpetua?

We have documents from the period of Roman persecutions of Christians in the early 3rd century, including the prison diary and trial accounts of a young noble woman named Perpetua, martyred around 202 in Carthage, North Africa. She was still a catechumen (not yet baptized), who identified herself as Christian. Perpetua gave up her still nursing baby and insisted on being put into the arena during games in honor of the Emperor Geta.  Many tried to dissuade her, but she got her wish. With great heroism she faced the beasts. After many torments a gladiator was sent in to finish her off, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Perpetua grabbed his hand and pointed his sword at her own throat. Perpetua’s heroism inspired others to give strong witness to their faith and, subsequently, be imprisoned. A pregnant slave girl name Felicity went to prison with Perpetua.  Felicity had her baby just before they were sent to the arena (from Latin harena, “sand” which covered the surface). The accounts of the trial and deaths of these martyrs attest to the amazing love they had for each other in prison.  They also show that Christian solidarity crossed class boundaries. There is a touching moment in the account when Perpetua and Felicity arrange each other’s clothing so as to preserve their modesty even while they were suffering.  They bade each other farewell with the kiss of peace.

Our Faith was nourished by the blood of martyrs. The farewell gesture of Perpetua and Felicity, the kiss of peace, should remind us today to be dignified during Holy Mass when the entirely optional “sign of peace” is invited for the congregation.

Dignity, people, dignity!  Use some decorum if you have the sign of peace… for the love of all that’s holy.

The congregation’s sign of peace – is entirely optional in the Novus Ordo.  The congregation exchanges the sign of peace at the discretion of the priest or bishop celebrant.

To put it another way, it does not have to be done at all.

However, there is a specific moment when the celebrant extends his sign of peace to those present.  The celebrant’s sign of peace is not an option.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:

[72.] It is appropriate “that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”. “The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. He does likewise if for a just reason he wishes to extend the sign of peace to some few of the faithful”. “As regards the sign to be exchanged, the manner is to be established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the dispositions and customs of the people”, and their acts are subject to the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

Thus, I suppose it depends on what people do during the sign of peace, or more technically, the “pax… peace”.  When I was in Hong Kong years ago I saw people bow to each other.  In the USA and Italy have have seen all dignity and reverence thrown to the winds.

Since in the Ordinary Form the congregational sign of peace is an option left entirely to the discretion of the priest celebrant, until we accomplish a restoration of liturgical decorum my preference would be to opt out of the congregational sign of peace.

That said, the congregational sign of peace is permitted.  As a matter of fact, it is an ancient Christian gesture, rooted in Scripture and the earliest liturgical practice.  It is well attested and its meaning is explained by Fathers of the Church such as St. Augustine.

The manner of giving the sign of peace is usually culturally conditioned.   However, there is a traditional sign of peace, or kiss of peace, the pax, in the Roman Church.

It would be nice for Catholics to use it, instead of the foolishness that is often exemplified.

Remember the POLL that I posted a little over a year ago?

3rd ROUND: The congregation's "sign of peace" during (Novus Ordo) Mass

View Results

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11 Responses to WDTPRS – 33rd Ordinary Sunday: thoughts (rant) on the “sign of peace”

  1. iPadre says:

    Alway tried to get them to offer a sober kind of sign of peace to no avail. Now, I haven’t offered it for a few years and they do a quick, sober sign of peace.

  2. EcclesialVigilante says:

    I have no problem with the Kiss of Peace as done in some Oriental liturgies (notably the Armenian, Syrian, and Assyrian). The problem is that you find it usually done nothing like that.

    Excerpt from OrthodoxWiki: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Liturgy_of_St._James#Liturgy_of_the_Faithful_2
    “In the tradition of the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Kiss of Peace has never been restricted to clergy, but is rather conveyed to the laity in a dignified and efficient manner. Two clergy in minor orders, typically boys, will receive the kiss of peace from the celebrant, and will then proceed down each side of the central aisle. The parishioner standing close to the aisle will clasp hands with them, and then proceed to kiss their hands, before conveying the kiss down their own aisle. Those present do not move around to exchange the kiss with others not in their immediate vicinity, as in the disruptive manner in many contemporary Roman Catholic and Anglican parish churches.”

  3. VeritasVereVincet says:

    I marked tolerated. Real answer would be somewhere between tolerate and like: I like the way I do it, I tolerate the way most other people do it. Then again, I usually attend a Mass where it lasts a maximum of 15 seconds, so it could be worse.

  4. Allan S. says:

    “…there is a traditional sign of peace, or kiss of peace, the pax, in the Roman Church.”

    OK, I’ll bite: What exactly is the approved or traditional “sign (kiss, etc.) of peace”? What does it look like, and how is it properly done? I’ve seen everyone do something different, and never had any idea that there was actually a way it is supposed to be done. Some people make a V-shaped peace sign with two fingers, some kiss on the cheek, some wave and so forth.

  5. mike cliffson says:

    A a matter of fact , I had a parish or more for every reply, including what isn’t there: contained and dignified.(Spain mostly, UK too.) And even in the same parish , one mass to another can vary, not only at the kiss/sign of peace, particularly weekday masses to Sunday . Stateside?

  6. jhayes says:

    What exactly is the approved or traditional “sign (kiss, etc.) of peace”?

    It depends on the country. Here is a 2014 statemen from the USCCB pointing out that there is no “official” form in the USA.

    Furthermore, both the GIRM (nos. 82 and 154) and the Circular Letter (no. 6b), affirm the right of each Conference of Bishops to specify, if so desired, the manner of exchanging peace between the members of the assembly. No “official” expression of peace has ever been stipulated for the dioceses of the United States. Perhaps the most common form for the exchange of peace in this country is shaking hands, but the diocesan bishop may encourage other forms as well for cultural or other pastoral reasons. In fact, the GIRM even suggests a short, optional dialogue: “While the Sign of Peace is being given, it is permissible to say, ‘The peace of the Lord be with you always,’ to which the reply is ‘Amen’” (no. 154).

    HERE See page 31

    The paragraph before this one points out that for weddings, funerals and other spevial occasions, the priest may leave the sanctuary to give the sign of peace to some persons.

  7. taffymycat says:

    in this day and age of germs and weird diseases, i prefer no touching of any kind – and i prefer not to be interrupted in my meditation/prayer during Mass. the whole NOrdo is too rambunctious secular and disturbing to me. so protestant…

  8. Imrahil says:

    With all due respect, dear taffymycat – only addressing your first point –

    but our day and age may have many problems; an abundance of germs and weird diseases is not one of them, and if there’s a problem here, it’s (they say) lack of exposure due to over-awareness. Farmers’ children who eat mud in their childhood don’t (they say) get allergies, and on an a bit more serious note, Chesterton said: “What has health to do with care? Health has to do with carelessness.”

  9. Anthony says:

    I merely put my hand up, palm facing out… and say “Peace be with you” to the people directly around me They understand.

  10. Chon says:

    I couldn’t vote because the poll is missing our category. At the Novus Ordo Mass I attend regularly, nobody does the sign of peace because it is optional and we don’t like it. Visiting priests don’t even do it, having been given a heads-up by our pastor.

    I visited a different parish this morning and someone put his palms together and bowed, like they do in Thailand. What’s with that?