Letters from the week of 4 - 11 August 2019
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A No-So-Peaceful Kiss of Peace
Note: This is a quotation from my little booklet "Elements of Offering" (Nashotah House Press; 2016, pp. 35-36):
PRINCIPLE: Few people realize that the Passing of the Peace just before the Eucharist proper begins (i.e., just before the Offertory is the ideal place) is not a “new” idea, nor is it merely a restoration of an ancient practice omitted since apostolic times. The fact is that in the Western (Roman) Rite, the Passing of the Peace has always remained part of the ceremonies of Solemn Mass, but that tradition involved the passing of the Peace only to the Altar party and clergy or religious in choir. It was done in an orderly way, passed from the Celebrant to the Deacon and Subdeacon who in turn passed it individually to the rest of the Altar party and to the choir. Laudable modern practice (restoring the even more ancient practice) adds that it should be passed among the whole Assembly.
PRACTICE: We rejoice in the restoration of the Peace but strongly scorn the insane, anti-liturgical scramble that has sadly become the norm in most places. The liturgical tradition is that the Peace is PASSED—from the Celebrant at the Altar down to the last person present—but carefully and reverently and in a dignified manner: to the first person in a row, for instance, who passes it to the next person, etc. without clambering over pews or bounding across aisles, or running up and down the nave, bringing the liturgical development of the Eucharist to a dead halt. Whatever “sense” of Liturgy has been built up through the Ministry of the Word is completely and totally shattered in the frenzied distraction of this lunatic scramble. (Further, there are always those who are “skipped” as people dash around to their friends—leaving the disregarded ones [often visitors] feeling more rejected, rather than included.) The Passing of the Peace is still liturgy, not a “real life hug-fest” and needs to be done with the same formality and grace as the rest of the liturgy. It has been a wonderful res-toration of an ancient liturgical practice, but a less-than-devout manifestation of it prevails in most places. And it is most inappropriate (and falsely egalitarian) for a vested Celebrant to traverse the aisles, hugging all and sundry. (In the Vatican’s 2005 “General Instructions of the Roman Missal” Chapter 3 indicates that the Sign of Peace must be offered “only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner.”)
POINTER: If one is ready to do serious liturgical teaching and training, the pedestrian handshake may be replaced by the graceful and formal embrace (which more closely approximates the ancient and biblical “kiss of peace”). In this case, the person passing the Peace places hands on the recipient’s shoulders, the recipient places hands on the passer’s elbows, and the cheeks are gently touched—rather like a European greeting between friends. Pas-sionate hugs and kisses are to be eschewed."
The Order of Julian of Norwich
Hartland, Wisconsin, USA
5 August 2019
A really interesting and important reflection on the Passing of the Peace. Thank you. And what a brilliant link to the UTube site.
Christ Church Cathedral
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
5 August 2019
I was a theological student at the time the Peace was being introduced. One of us (then all-male students) used to plunge to his knees—this was our rule, if you don't want to pass the peace then stay kneeling.
R used to do so and purse his lips. I came to realise that he didn't so much have theological issues as intimacy issues.
And that's, OK, I myself don't particularly like being hugged, kissed or touched by people I don't really know.
However after 40 years I've got over it and just try to roll with it. I am such a Puritan
Switch to 40 years later, and I have a Churchwarden who goes through the motions and never ever makes eye contact with me or any of those with whom he shakes a hand.
The REAL PROBLEM, it seems to me, is that like so much that we do it is symbolical and shallow.
It is certainly not SACRAMENTAL—an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It is so often a shallow acknowledgement of something we think we should believe but don't really, or have made it bland.
St Mary Magdalene's
Adelaide, South Australia
6 August 2019
Your article on the passing of the peace grates on me, but I am not sure why. As a priest, I celebrate the passing of the peace on any given Sunday. I am troubled by the thought that it is merely the 7th inning stretch in the course of the liturgy. I also take to heart what was said in the article about NOT being in a time of peace. Major cities succumb to gun violence, housing shortages, homelessness, and poverty (to name but a few of our social ills.)
I get that for those who are new—they may see it as an invasion of personal space. Yet, there is a also an important lesson that is modeled in the passing of the peace— that in the midst of great turmoil and apocalyptic times—the Spirit enfolds us in peace. It is a peace that flows from the communion table—the promise of nourishment through the bread and wine. Perhaps like many of our rote rituals there needs to be a context set for the passing of the peace which is not always evident when it falls between the absolution and the offering. It is more that a welcome or a happy to see you (coffee hour should suffice for these) rather it is invoking a promise, that peace will be ours, that peace will come, that Christ is our peace. Thank-you for these articles that force us to wrestle with things we take for granted.
St Thomas Brooklin
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
6 August 2019
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