Sometime I recently said so…
We are now transitioning from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We are now at the moment that frightens all newcomers and continues to make the introverts shrink — The Peace of Christ. For my family and I, it is the moment we decided to return to All Saints for the second visit.
It is more than just a moment to shake hands, but is a moment in the liturgy that is a bridge between Scripture and the Eucharist, in some ways perhaps a bridge between the Old Testament and the New. In some ways, I picture it like the Beatitudes where Matthew 5 is found – so that between the hearing of the Law, or the Old Testament, and the Passion of the Christ, the Eucharist, we are here participating in reconciliation between the poor and the rich, between brothers, and between you and me. Indeed, it is a moment filled with deep theological significance.
The peace of Christ has many ancient and biblical foundations, namely the kiss shared between the Jews that we see at various times instituted in the New Testament (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). As we are grounded in Scripture, we follow our Scriptural mandate found in Matthew 6 so that before we approach the altar of the Lord, we must find ourselves reconciling with our brothers and sisters. This is a moment when the entire faith community meets and in some way seeks our absolution from one another – and we remind ourselves of our inherent equality with one another, and our responsibility to one another as the Epistle of James reminds us. “All of this was understood as a part of the people’s priestly ministry of reconciliation, focused in the liturgy and lived out day by day.” It is a way to create continuity “between the way one worships and the way one lives one’s life.” It should serve to remind us that that which we pray we should do so that we are transformed in both word and deed.
At often times, schism separates us. According to the Anglican Priest John Wesley, Schism begins not with
The place of the Peace of Christ in Christian liturgy has sometimes changed. “St Justin Martyr describes a greeting with a kiss prior to the presentation of bread and wine to the pastor. Origen and Tertullian also indicate that it served as the ‘seal’ at the end of the intercessions, while the New Testament injunction to be reconciled to one another before offering gifts at the altar (Matthew 5:23) later provided a scriptural basis for this position before the eucharistic action.” In the Anglican Tradition, the Peace has moved around somewhat, disappearing at times, and then reappearing in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It has moved from before the Eucharist, to after the Eucharistic Prayer, and now to where it rests today.
Today, as we prepare our hearts, let us consider any act of reconciliation we must do with those here today, with ourselves, or with the Lord. Let us take the moment in the Peace of Christ to truly, according to Scripture, prepare ourselves for what the Lord gives us in the Eucharist so that we are always judged worthy of bread and the wine.
Howard E. Galley, The Ceremonies of the Eucharist: A Guide to Celebration, The Prayer Book Office Morning and Evening Prayer (Lanham, MD; Chicago; New York; Toronto; Plymouth, UK: A Cowley Publications Book, 1989), 97.