The Sign of Peace

Carmel Bulletin, 31 August 2014

Recent news in Church liturgical circles has been about a circular letter released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, that is, the Vatican department responsible for the oversight of liturgical and sacramental celebration in the Church.

The Sign of Peace
Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

The letter seeks to respond to proposals made at the Synod (meeting of bishops) on the Eucharist in 2005 to evaluate the placement of the Rite of Peace, which we celebrate shortly before receiving Communion.  Pope Benedict XVI asked that the matter be considered, and whether there was a more appropriate time for this rite.

For those of you who are starting to think “good grief, not another change to the Mass!”, I can assure you that the circular letter advises that the Rite of Peace is to remain exactly as it currently is.  While it may seem strange to write a four-page letter explaining that nothing will change, the Congregation took the opportunity to explain the purpose of the rite, why we celebrate it the way we do, and offer some recommendations on how it can be celebrated reverently and prayerfully.

What was central to the decision to keep the Rite of Peace “as is” was our understanding of this rite in the Roman Catholic tradition being an action that symbolises “peace, communion and charity” (Roman Missal, Order of Mass, no. 128), rather than being symbolic of other things such as welcoming or forgiveness.

We will continue to explore this rite more fully over the coming weeks.

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