Part 3, Carmel Bulletin, 5 October 2014
The Sign of Peace leads us into the breaking of the bread and reception of Holy Communion. Previously, however, suggestions had been made that it could be better celebrated elsewhere during the Mass.
One suggestion that is made sometimes is to move the Sign of Peace after the Prayer of the Faithful, before the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward.
While this is not the practice in the Roman Catholic Church, it is followed in some other Christian traditions. The placement of the Rite of Peace at this time is connected directly with a teaching from the Sermon on the Mount as given in the Gospel according to Matthew:
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Mt 5:23-24, NRSV)
Like the placement of this rite in the Introductory Rites of Mass, the focus shifts to that of reconciliation. While this could be one way of understanding the rite, the focus of the rite as we celebrate it is somewhat different. When we look at the words the priest says within the rite, they are not about forgiveness and repentance, even if we ask God to “look not on our sins” (Roman Missal, Order of Mass, no. 126).
As an action that symbolises “peace, communion and charity” (Roman Missal, Order of Mass, no. 128), the Rite of Peace continues to remain in place as part of the Communion Rite.