The Sign of Peace is an important ritual gesture in our Liturgy. In action, touch and word, we seek to touch into the presence and to communicate the peace of Jesus Christ. And don’t we all need more peace? – in our own hearts and minds, in our families, in our work groups, in our local communities, in Australia, in the world, in our Church community, between all Christians, between all religions …
By including the Sign of Peace in our Liturgy, together with Jesus Christ, we are saying that we do have the Source of Peace here; that we do want to receive it and to extend it to others.
We are also pledging with our action that we will go forth from the Liturgy and spread the peace of Jesus Christ to our roads, footpaths and supermarket aisles, as well as to all the places where we encounter people. We can extend this idea so as to see ourselves as living peacefully in the environment: at peace with the whole of creation. That vision of peace is nurtured in our Liturgy.
So at the appointed time in the Liturgy you turn to the person next to you, in front of you, behind you, and clasp hands as you would with Jesus Christ. A clasping of both hands is possibly the best way of doing it.
The Sign of Peace is not simply a hello, or a greeting handshake, or a friendly nod. Greetings can be exchanged as we gather for the Liturgy. The Sign of Peace is another sacred action, a sacramental. It helps bring about what we are trying to express and live: Peace.
It can be a considered touching with both hands in a clasp which reminds us of the Spirit of Jesus, which establishes connections between members of the community and builds a solidarity in the whole Body of Christ. Our Amen to the Body of Christ in Communion is a confirmation of the ongoing process.
It is good to develop the habit of including in the two or three with whom we share the sacramental of the Sign of Peace a person or two who is outside our usual circle of family and friends.
We need to see in ourselves as we are involved in Liturgy exactly the variety that makes our church catholic: age, gender, colour, wealth, education, politics. We need the variety, and it’s in variety that peace can be real.
How do you do the Sign of Peace in your Liturgy? Is it a handshake, a kiss, a nod, a flicker of a smile? (People have been known to stand in cold, stony isolation!) Or is it a gentle, respectful, powerful clasping of hands?
Perhaps sometimes, the faith community could discuss these ideas: How do we do the Sign of Peace?