Monday, September 6, 2010
Sharing the Peace
I learned from my friend and mentor the Rev. Charles Evanson to place the exchange of peace following the absolution prior to the actual start of the liturgy. In reality, I prefer this placement not only for aesthetic reasons but also for theological ones. I understand why it is placed prior to the offering (given the words of our Lord in Luke's Gospel about leaving your gift at the altar and going to make peace with your brother first). I can understand why it is placed following the Pax Domini since both are about peace (although I do not equate the peace of the Lord spoken while lifting up the chalice and host with the handshaking and hugging we associate with the sharing of the peace). In both places the flow of the liturgy does seem to be disrupted by the practical aspects of standing up and moving around for the sharing of the peace.
For this reason I prefer the placement immediately after the absolution. It fits. We have just received absolution from the Father through Jesus Christ and now we have the opportunity to share what God has given us in Christ with those around us, signaling that we are not merely people of vertical relationships but horizontal ones as well. So, following the absolution I say "May He who began this good work within us bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." To which the people responds, "Amen." and I continue, "The Peace of the Lord be with you." and they respond, "And also with you." Then we share the sign of peace one with another, connecting our absolution from God to our relationships together as His people. That completed, we are now free to begin the Divine Service. The preparation is over. The liturgy may begin unimpeded by the sins which built a wall between us and God and between each of us on earth.
As the organist intones the Introit, Kyrie, and Hymn of Prace (the extended entrance rite), we complete our sharing of the peace and move naturally to the beginning rite of the Divine Service. It just fits. So much more natural than at the end of the prayers or the Pax Domini of the Eucharistic Liturgy. Think about it... I really do not know why to move it to another place. It is natural and less obtrusive to folks than stuck there at the end of the prayers or as the last versicle and response prior to receiving the Lord's Supper.
And I found fewer folks complaining about this ritual since it connects so well to the confession and absolution. So it is an easy introduction to the Divine Service and much easier for folks to understand... what do YOU think?