Let Christ give ME a kiss
12 responses to “Let Christ give ME a kiss”
That was an excellent essay/article. Thank you for sharing it.
A similarly-themed essay (although different in tone, more on the polemical side, I guess) was written by Michael Foley back in 2008. He touches on some of the same Scripture and Church Father passages.
The close connection of the kiss of peace, joy, reconciliation, and the Paschal mystery is evidenced in the Paschal Praises from the Matins which precede the Divine Liturgy of Easter Day in the Byzantine liturgy. They have a flavor very close to that of our Exultet, and conclude:
The day of Resurrection;
let us be radiant for the festival,
and let us embrace one another.
Let us say, brethren,
even to those that hate us,
‘Let us forgive all things on the Resurrection’,
and so let us cry,
‘Christ has risen from the dead:
by death he has trampled on death,
and to those in the graves given life’.
This is a very scholarly and good article on the Kiss of Peace. However, in most places it is not the Kiss of Peace, but rather the “Handshake of Peace.” A handshake is a bit different than a kiss and usually used in our culture to say hello or goodbye to someone who is an acquaintance or unknown to us. Many people in my congregation love to kiss one another if it is male and female, husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend during the Kiss of peace but would feel offended if a perfect stranger kissed them especially of the same sex. So there is a mixture of handshaking and kissing depending upon familiarity. Our bishop asked that the Sign of Peace be eliminated during the threat of H1N1 contagion this past fall/winter. Many people told me they liked the “peace” of no sign of peace and not being put-upon by an eager peace giver, not to mention hugger or kisser. At school masses, things usually get out of hand at the sign of peace. I use to tell the children to close their eyes, think of someone they were mad at or someone mad at them and then ask God to help them forgive, then shake the hand of one student to symbolize the true peace and reconciliation of heaven. But the next time we had Mass, they went back to their chaotic ways of being silly at this point. Today, we don’t ask people to exchange the sign of peace, but the priest and deacon model it by the traditional “Roman” embrace. This allows people to do what they want or nothing and to see a new way to do it without kissing or shaking hands.
The handshake in our hurried culture has become routine in hello and goodbye, and that is carried over into the Mass where the object seems to be to shake the hands of many people as possible.
However if “hello” and “goodbye” handshakes are done more leisurely as when we meet someone special, then they symbolize our attitude of continuing good well toward that person.
The handshake in our culture is also used when we are congratulating someone, saying they are someone special.
In one parish where I sometimes worship I have come to know an elderly gentleman, and wave to him when I take my customary place about five pews from him. I always walk over at the handshake of peace as a way of saying “you are special”
Rita’s post on delight has been delightful because it brought in the experience of a very wide variety of people rather than just the opinions of the usual talking heads like myself.
It would be very helpful in this discussion of the kiss/handshake of peace to hear from a wide variety of people with a wide variety of experiences.
You don’t have to have an opinion, just an experience can be helpful. Let me give an example.
In a Canadian church, the priest invited all the children to assemble in a large circle around the altar step that defined the altar area for the Lord’s Prayer, then at the Sign of Peace he sent them back into the congregation to share it with their families and friends.
Joyce’s essay is excellent. She reminded me of an occasion many years ago when I heard Fr Michael Joncas saying that when we look someone in the eye and say “Peace be with you”, we are saying, in effect, “I would lay down my life for you”. That changed my life.
It’s something which cannot be rushed. Watch yourself next time and see if, while you are shaking someone’s hand, your eyes have not already moved on to the next person you will greet! But we need to spend time on this gesture, and I am convinced that one way of helping us to do this is to use a double handclasp with no pumping up and down. Such a double handclasp does not disadvantage left-handed people, and the absence of the usual handshaking removes the secular connotations of what can otherwise become a liturgical “Have a nice day”. It also makes us take time, and provides an opportunity to look each other in the eye for a moment while we say — well, in my opinion, we need to put Christ back into this gesture, so I advocate saying not “Peace be with you” but “The peace of Christ” or “Christ’s peace be with you”. In this way, the kiss of peace can once again become a sacred gesture, rather than something which many people have already started to take for granted.
(ctd) This, of course, is not going to happen without catechesis, and I would hope that such catechesis might be accompanied by a subtle but essential change in the invitation introducing the gesture. Priests and deacons should not say “Let us offer each other the Sign of Peace” as if there were only one, but rather “Let us offer each other a sign of peace”.
I’ve lost count of the weddings I have attended where, at the invitation, bride and groom turn to each other and solemnly shake hands. “For God’s sake kiss each other!” I always want to cry aloud.
I would take issue with Joyce when she says that repositioning the Kiss of Peace at the end of the Liturgy of the Word, before the presentation of the gifts, would make the first part of Mass unduly penitential.
(1) I don’t think most people perceive the Kiss of Peace as being penitential (although they may perceive the reconciliation element of it).
(2) The question, rather, is whether the Penitential Rite itself is in the right place. European liturgists have been saying for many years that placing the penitential act after the Liturgy of the Word would give us a context in which to express sorrow and reconciliation, before moving on to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and that the Kiss of Peace would be the culmination of such a penitential act. There is a perfectly good precedent for this: on Ash Wednesday the penitential act in the form of the signing with ashes follows not precedes the LoW.
In Toronto during HINI we were asked to continue the greeting but without making physical contact. The unexpected consequence for me was a new emphasis on eye-contact. It slows things down, and leaves an impression that tends to stay with me for longer.
The sign of peace definitely needs reforming at weddings. At least around here, this is an occasion for shaking hands/hugging/kissing every person in the wedding party (9 couples at a wedding yesterday), both sets of parents, grand parents, other family, the ministers, on and on. It can easily stretch on for 2 or 3 minutes, and the proceedings get so raucous that the priest often has to ask people to quiet down so we can “get on with the Mass.” In my estimation, this is a preview of the receiving line, not a sign of Christ’s peace.
I wonder why priests faced with certain situations, such as the school Mass described by Fr. McDonald, don’t use the legitimate option, clearly permitted by the rubrics, of skipping the sign of peace?
I attend, fairly regularly, a noon Mass where the sign of peace is hardly ever initiated by the celebrant, and I don’t think anyone misses it. I know I don’t. Its absence leaves us with a very calm transition from the end of the doxology right into the Agnus Dei, and always strikes me as much more conducive to the reception of Holy Communion than the typical hustle and bustle of the handshake of peace.
It seems to me that, if the Confiteor were used more often (or exclusively!) for the penitential rite, we would adequately convey both our penitence and reconciliation with our neighbor. What is more peaceful than asking our brothers and sisters to “pray for me to the Lord our God” ?
For the last few years I have been looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a way of understanding our liturgical prayer. After the great prayer, “Give us our daily bread” comes the great responsibility “as we forgive…”
The last three phrases of the Our Father turn us outward, to those who trespass against us, to temptation and to evil. We face them as God faces us, with forgiveness. As we forgive, we do what God does. As we receive the Body of Christ, we become that Body and do what that Body does. Receiving the Spirit of Christ, we go to do what Christ does, offering ourselves to others. (I cannot tell you how glad I am to read Theodore of M’s remarks in this article!)
We could just make this a private moment, where Christ comes to us and we cling to him. But if Christ comes to us, the fulfillment should be that we go to others. We take forgiveness with us when we take Christ to ourselves, forgiveness not simply for ourselves, but for all whom Christ loves.
IOW, I like the sign of peace where it is.
Context for locating kiss of peace in Mass:
1. Much better understanding of present practice through random sample studies of parishes & participants.
2. Much better understanding of proposed theological approaches and their catechesis through well designed experimental studies of their use.
3. The entrance, offertory, and communion portions of the Mass are in some respects debris of past practices seeking a purpose and meaning in contemporary contexts.
4. These portions all have official chants & psalms that are largely neglected in favor of hymns.
5. The relative roles of choir & people in these chants & hymns are unclear in practice.
6. Other than the responsorial psalm of the readings, the psalms have vanished from the liturgical experience of Catholics both in the Mass and a Divine Office that no longer exists in parishes.
7. Hymns & psalms may not be an either/or question as witnessed by Anglican Eucharist and Office.
8. The weakened Kyrie Gloria Credo Sanctus Agnus framework connecting Word and Eucharist needs to be strengthened.
9. Slow liturgical evolution over a hundred years through carefully studied experiments and changing practice wisely evolving at the grassroots is preferable to industrial age corporate political decision making.
A few things to make haste slowly about after the language skirmishes die down.