Friday, December 31, 2010

Dominus mihi adjutor

Last night I stumbled across the blog of Fr Hugh of Douai Abbey. His most recent post offers some useful thoughts on the meaning of the Sign of Peace during Mass. I`m working my way through earlier posts and have found much of interest. I was at Douai for the first time a couple of years ago for a priests` retreat led by Fr de Malleray FSSP and we were made very welcome. The blog can be found here.


Father Gary Dickson said...

Fr Hugh makes some very pertinent comments on the origin and current use of the sign of peace. I have to say that I routinely omit the exchange between the people and for two reasons. First, the peace of Christ -which comes to us from the Sacrifice on the altar and not from within ourselves- has already been exchanged in that of priest sat the altar and the people, so having everyone share a further sign among themselves is somewhat superfluous. Second, it always, in my experience, degenerates into a time of mutual affirmation; the ‘group-hug, feel-good moment’ of which Fr Hugh speaks. This is inconsistent with the nature of the liturgy and in fact distorts it by refocusing us from God to man.
I came to the decision not to make the optional interjection ‘Let us off...’ very early in priesthood since, when preparing for ordination and intensely praying for the grace to hear the voice of God and not my own, I remained on my knees to retain my prayer focus and was poked in the back by a woman who thrust out her hand saying ‘Peace be with you!’. My instinct (held back) was to say “I’m trying to get some”. I do feel that a sign of peace where priests (illicitly) leave the sanctuary and parishioners greet one another rather than offer a symbolic gesture, has become symbolic of the fact that people see Mass not as the worship of Almighty God offered in praise, adoration, propitiation, satisfaction for sin and thanksgiving, but as the community get-together. Largely this misunderstanding arises from using the English word ‘celebrate ’, which in terms of the liturgy does not mean ‘party’ or ‘festivity’ but to effect or confect the Sanctissimum, the Sacrifice and the Heavenly –parousial (Rev 19v19)- Supper of the Lamb.

Anonymous said...

I cannot but agree with everything Fr Gary says. That said, the few times I have omitted the sign of peace brought me more flack than any homily of mine ever has done! Even in my monastic community, when soon after I was ordained I ommited it at a ferial conventual Mass, the brethren seemed to assume I had forgotten it and gave it anyway!

A happy and blessed 2011 to you all.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Fr Hugh, thanks for taking thhe time to comment. I hope to share your insights into the Sign of peace with my parish.

I do believe the Sign of Peace has a place a Solemn Mass. I can see why the reformers might have thought it a good thing to extend it to include the congregrtion. As you say the problem is that it has all become rather misunderstood and now the dangers outweigh the benefits.

Thanks Fr Gary. I do admire your courage. It was always my policy to leave the Ordinary Form alone so long as I couold celebrate the EF too. Now that I no longer have a Sunday EF Mass I`m having to consider making changes to the OF.

augustinus said...

H and N is indeed blessed to have such courageous priests as Fr Brown and Fr Dickson among the ranks of its clergy - though I appreciate that it cannot be easy for you and like-minded brethren. Please, Fathers, never be discouraged by the negative attitudes of the vocal minority, even when they wish to sound as if they are the majority.

Nosy Observer said...

I look forward to hearing about what happens when you try the omission on your parish.

Unknown said...

To this day I find "The Sign of Peace" a distraction and to a degree somewhat embarrassing.It can be quite drawn out ;from the formal handshakes;to waving to neighbours;to couples embracing and kissing.After this the solemnity of the Mass often appears lost or at any rate diminished.
It does however seem popular
I think that it would be difficult arbitrarily to omit this from where it is established practise, without careful explanation and general agreement unless it was part of some wider official review.