Friday, June 10, 2016


Here’s irony for you:

You know what one of the biggest causes of division in liturgy?  The Sign of Peace.

Everybody has an opinion on the SOP.  Some think it should be moved.  Some think it should be done away with.  Some want a love fest accompanied by its own liturgical song.  Some want it literal, and some want it symbolic.  Most, it seems, are vaguely unhappy with it.

The arguments range from it being to much of a disturbance in the mood and flow of the liturgy to it being a wonderful uniting moment.  On the surface it sounds like such a good and simple thing, but like many things in life, in practice, it gets complicated with unforeseen circumstances.

A number of years ago the Liturgist for the Diocese of Cleveland began taking on the SOP.  His arguments was something like this, “The SOP is a symbolic action having to do with the Scriptural mandate:

23Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

In order to fulfill this, we have the symbolic gesture of offering a SOP to the rest of the Bride of Christ - the Church.  Therefore you should turn to ONE person, or maybe just the person on your right or left, shake hands, and say, “Peace be with you.”  By just choosing one person, you make it a symbolic act of making peace with the entire Church.  If you you choose multiple people, the three in front of you, the three in back of you, George across the aisle, a wave to your son serving Mass on the altar, then you have turned it into a literal action and made it a weak action unless you give the same sign to everyone in the congregation.

Good point.  But then a guy stand up and say, “So I have my wife, my children, my parents and best friends with me at Mass and you want me to choose just ONE person and ignore the rest.”

Another good point.

The liturgist responded, “Yes.  At the Mass we all equals.  They are not wife and children and best friend, Jew or Gentile, salve or free, male or female for you are all one in Jesus Christ.”  Galatians 3:28.

Another good point.

“Yes.  But,” came the counter, “You and I may understand that as savvy liturgists, everyone else will thing we are just jerks.”

Another good point.  

As a character from Fiddler on the Roof says, “He is right and he is right?  They can’t both be right.”  To which Tevye responds, “You know, you are also right.”

Paragraph 82 of the GIRM simply says that at this point a gesture as determined by the local Conference of Bishops is to be made.  But here is a tricky thing to interpret:  “each person, in a sober manner (HA - my insertion, not the bishops) offer the SOP only to those who are nearest.”  So does that mean only to one person or only those who are in reaching distance, or . . .

It is most interesting to note that this rite is not essential to the Mass.  In fact, Rome stated recently that it should be skipped from time to time to get this point across.  I am not choosing to do that at the moment however.  I think it would start Word War III.


Chris P. said...

The last time I visited your very Irish friend on Manchester Rd. for Sunday Mass, they skipped the SOP... AND said the Apostle's Creed instead of the Nicene Creed. In fact, I don't think I remember the SOP at any mass I've been to down there.

One Sunday we should go back to the Gloria in Latin, the Kyrie, skip the SOP and say the Apostle's Creed. I think it'd be amusing to stand and listen to the talk after Church. You'd probably need to skip the "handshake line" and sprint to the rectory for your own safety, but it seems a small price to pay for my amusement.

Anonymous said...

I remember someone leaving their pew to say "hi" to a friend across the way during the SOP. The expression on the priest's face was priceless.

Pat said...

I wonder about giving the sign of peace to people I barely know and whom, I hope, I have not offended (nor they me). How is this gesture from a stranger (me) bringing peace to their lives?

By offering the SOP to strangers, how am I being reconciled with the (absent) friend or family member who may have something against me? Am I being too literal by thinking such thoughts?

Regarding the SOP, the horse is out of the barn and there may be no way to rein it in.

Anonymous said...

Please Father V. pray for my husband and I. We are going through a hard time right now.

Jeannette said...

I have been to daily Masses, in the chapel, where the priest leaves the altar and shakes the hand of everyone in the first pew.

doubletrouble said...

During a TLM Mass, there is no such thing. I am always taken aback a tad when attending a NO rite.
I'm not a fan, but it is what it is, I guess.

Fr. V said...

Prayer coming Anon.

Anonymous said...

SOP, in military lingo, equals "standard operating procedure"!

At one of my local parishes, not only is the Sign of Peace the SOP, but in addition, just prior to the entrance procession at start of Mass, the congregation is asked to greet one another. So there's a double dose, big heaping portion (overdose?!) of SOP!

Anonymous said...

I have seen people cross over to another side of the church, make time for a lively discussion and badger the people in front or behind them to shake on it during the SOP. To say that it 'disrupts the flow' of the Sacred Mass is an incredibly tactful understatement. I suppose we have the same Liturgist to thank for the way some people like to wave their hands in the air (like they just don't care) during the Our Father and for the fact that most people no longer kneel during the Lamb of God (!). I will NEVER understand the impulse to make the Mass more like a Protestant service and abandon our own practices, particularly since those denominations are dying at a dizzying pace. Why try so hard to copy their ways? Anyway, amusing take from a British Catholic convert:

Peace out!

Anonymous said...

I know a seminarian who defended the idea that responding, "And with your spirit" to the priest is, in effect, an efficacious act of peace with the whole Church, since the priest is an extension of his bishop and the bishop is in union with Rome. The action to physically wish peace to some and not others is to necessarily (in the philosophical sense) discount an actual wishing of peace to all others present. It was well received on theological grounds, even if not agreed upon preferentially by the professor.

Just sayin' ;)

-Mike Petkosek

Marie M said...

In the maronite rite, the altar boys receive "peace" from the priest -- the priest offers them his folded hands and the altar boy places both his hands on the outside and slides them back into folded position -- then the altar boys proceed down the aisle to the congregation giving the aisle person the sign of peace, and each person turns to the next and passes it on after they have received it. I love the symbolism there, and our kids really love it too! I wonder if that could work in the Roman rite?

Anonymous said...

Marie M - What the Maronites do sounds so beautiful! And in keeping with the dignity of the Liturgy.

Personally, I like the Sign of Peace. And Protestant friends and family who have attended in the past are very touched by this extending of the peace of Christ to everyone.

Not to be picky, but I am not so fond of the raised hands prayer position during the Our Father, which we were told to assume by the Diocese some time ago. From what I can tell, it is not done well. Some people hold their hands up, palms out (which I think is the correct position). Others hold their hands more like the priest does, palms up. Some hold hands with all those in their pews, and then raise them during the doxology (which is definitely not correct, I understand). And others (like me), simply fold our hands or rest them on the pew in front of us as we have always done. It is a little disjointed.

Blessings to you and to St. Sebastian! - Sue, ofs

Anonymous said...

I am the one who asked for prayers. Thank you, Father.

They helped tremendously.

I will keep you in my prayers.