Oct 18, 2017
The Catholic liturgical tradition regards the Sign of Peace at Mass as a disciplined and restrained public gesture, and not an affectionate gesture of intimacy and friendship. In fact, the peace sign is designed for people who, for the most part, do not even know each other’s names.
This derives from the fact that the liturgical assembly is not (and is not meant to be) a gathering of friends and intimates. In my view, it is a mistake to view those gathered in worship as friends and “friends who haven’t yet met.”
While the liturgical assembly includes spouses, family members and friends, for the most part it does not. It is generally a mixed gathering of neighbors, fellow citizens, and persons who are (and will remain) strangers to each other.
Indeed, the Eucharistic gathering is more like a town meeting than a community of intimates. It is a public rather than an intimate grouping.
Saying this goes against the strong emphasis on small group intimacy and interpersonal relationships popular in liturgical spirituality today? Many pastors and people appear to have absorbed from the culture at large a bias toward intimacy and against publicness. Indeed, our culture sets such store on privacy and intimacy that the small group is regarded today as the only humanly authentic social grouping. This explains why many parishes have over the years been busy attempting to turn liturgical assemblies into intimate gatherings of family and friends, and why they think anything less is intolerable and inauthentic.