From The Lord's Prayer To The Rite Of Peace
Following the Lord’s Prayer, the priest prays the “embolism” meaning “insertion.” This prayer, inserted after the Lord’s Prayer, was prayed quietly by the priest. Today it is recited aloud. The embolism accentuates the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer that the community may be delivered from every evil as we wait Jesus’ return. The doxology concludes the embolism recited by all the faithful – “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.”
The Rite of Peace begins with the priest’s prayer asking God to give the Church and the whole human family unity and peace. Jesus promised to give his followers a “peace which this world can never give us.” While this world is a wonderful creation, it is passing away. We cannot find our stability or peace in something passing away, but only in something secure and long-lasting. Jesus’ resurrection reveals that this lasting peace comes from knowing that our lives are secure in God’s hands – even in the face of death itself.
The greeting of peace was always part of the Church’s ancient worship, where it was an actual “kiss of peace” given by men to men and women to women. The New Testament mentions the kiss of peace (Rm 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; and 1 Pt 5:14) as conclusions to their letters – “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
Since these Letters were read at worship, liturgists believe that the kiss of peace concluded the Liturgy of the Word. This was the usual placement in most Christian churches (with the exception of the Roman Rite) following Jesus’ teaching: “… if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24). Eastern Orthodox Christians still exchange the greeting after the Scriptures as preparation for the Nicene Creed: “Let us love one another that we may confess… the Trinity”.
St. Justin Martyr (150 A.D.) writes, “having ended the prayers oi.e. the prayers of intercession) we salute one another with a kiss” (Apology, 65). In the third century in Rome, the greeting was placed after the Lord’s Prayer. St. Augustine believed the greeting was related to the petition, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." He also understood the greeting to be a link between being in communion with the Church (the body of Christ) and receiving the Body of Christ in Communion. The greeting was a preparation for Communion. (In Milan and Spain, the greeting still follows the Liturgy of the Word.) Eventually the greeting was discontinued. However, the Missal of Pius V (1570) allowed the kiss of peace to be given among the clergy; at High Masses, it could be extended to the laity.
Vatican II restored the peace greeting. While preparing the new Roman Missal, suggestions were made to move the greeting before the Eucharistic Prayer. However, in keeping with Roman custom, the Vatican kept it before Communion as a reminder that we are to be at peace as we approach the Lord’s Table for Communion by which we profess that we are one in Christ: “the rite of peace is to be a regular part of the liturgy in which the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before receiving the Eucharist” (par. 82). In the U.S., the gesture consists of shaking hands, extended to those nearest. In Japan and Thailand, bowing is a more customary. Husbands, wives, and family members could kiss one another since it’s unusual for them to shake hands in their daily lives.
Father Sauer continues his exploration of the Mass in the March 2 issue of The Message.