20 February 2017


I don't intend here to go into the original significance of the Pax at its traditional place in the Roman Rite; in posts some time ago, accessible through the search engine, I showed conclusively that the idea was that a liturgical Kiss concluded and sealed what had just been done (here, in the case of the Eucharist, consecration and oblation). No; I want to put some question marks against the significance assigned to it in the Pauline rite. And in current de facto praxis within the mainstream Church

"The faithful implore peace and unity for the Church and the whole family of men and express mutual charity with each other, before they share one loaf". MR 1969 IGMR para 56 b.

I doubt whether it would be easy to find much patristic support for the thought that Christians ought to be concerned for the unity of the human family qua unredeemed - that is, for humanity before and without Christ. You don't have to be a Calvinist believer in the massa damnationis to have read your New Testament and to know that 'brethren' are brethren because it is Baptism that makes one a co-sharer in Christ's Sonship so that one can cry "Abba" in fellowship with all those others who have been so admitted into His Body.

But my real dubium is about the logical link apparently asserted here between the Kiss and the eucharistic sharing in the Panis sanctus Vitae aeternae, the One Loaf. I do not understand why/how those who are admitted to the Kiss can be excluded from the Loaf ... or why/how those to be excluded from the Loaf are admitted to the Kiss.

Modern custom is that on the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, the Orthodox metropolitan who is visiting Rome to represent the Phanar is the first to receive the Kiss from the Pontiff. And indeed, in ordinary parish churches, there can be no doubt that it very commonly occurs that non-Catholic and even unbaptised visitors at Mass will (whether they like it or not) be given a warm greeting at Pax time (even though the paragraph quoted above technically suggests that the Pax is confined to the fideles).

Old-fashioned worshippers are sometimes opposed to the Peace because this silly little piece of faux-friendly hypocrisy interrupts their private piety. I have some sympathy with this, but I feel there are more profound reasons for deploring what have become the accepted customs of the mainstream Church.

Or at the very least, questions which need answering.


Anonymous said...

I was also told that at Mass it is the Peace of Christ himself that descends from the Sacrifice just offered in heaven, which is why the priest first offers his pax to the people and they then pass it to one another. It made sense to me at the time. It's certainly better than a vague, general expression of bonhomie or camaraderie, which is what we often have now, and doesn't necessarily mean it has to be tied to the reception of holy communion, or so it seems to me.

Christoph Hagen said...

I would say that those, who exchange the osculum pacis should be able or allowed to receive Holy Communion, but not actually need to do so in order to participate in the Pax rite.

Ben of the Bayou said...


I like very much that image of the Peace of Christ emanating from the Sacrifice just offered on the altar. It is, after all, a sacrificium placationis, no? Thus, the Pax Christi flows down from the one who offers that Sacrifice and mediates its effects. Lovely.

As to the question of why one who cannot, for whatever reason, participate in the consummation of the Sacrifice by consuming the Victim, it seems that Father has already hinted at the answer. If the Pax has to do with those who share in the peace of Christ, then those who stand outside that peace (e.g., those in sin, as witnessed by the conferring of the power to forgive sins in one of S John's post-Resurrection accounts), then it seems they should not share in it who cannot receive Him. Similarly, those not in communion of faith and peace with the Apostolic See.



A Daughter of Mary said...

I thought the Kiss of Peace was between the officiating priest, the deacons and sub-deacons at a traditional Solemn Pontifical High Mass? At low Mass, of course, there is only priest and altar server and no 'kiss- of peace.'

What a mess we find ourselves in when we endlessly tinker.

Banshee said...

I was always taught to associate the Peace with the Gospel reading about reconciling with your brother before going to the altar. So of course you have to forgive non-Christians and non-Catholics, too.

I like your peace of Christ interpretation, but it is totally new to me!

Anonymous said...

As an altar boy in the Parish of St Nicholas of Tolentine in Bristol UK. we were sternly lectured often by other altar boys related to each other by blood if we turned out becks on the Altar. I have a great distaste still in doing so and even more so with the bedlam that occurs at the Kiss of Peace. Is it the Church that says we can do this , NO! she does not. The Sign of peace as it is called is never or I have never heard it taught how this direct breaking of the silence of Divine Contemplation is to be followed. I see Fr calls it piety but in reality piety is the practice of the complete bodily and spiritual form of our approach to God. It certainly does not call for a DR Spock type of discipline that allows children to make a mess of silence. It is not as one fool told me the scriptural
way we are instructed to forgive our sins. No need of confession I asked. The other oxymoronic value that thinks we can give the Pax Vobiscum of Christ when not two sentences later we ask the Lamb of God to grant us peace admitting we do not have it yet claiming we can pass it on. What obstinate foolishness we have in our opinionated live of pride. I have another objection. I hesitate to touch hands with so many who we know have probably not used the Sacrament of Confession for months and even to my certain knowledge years. I know because I asked one who was so insistent on touching me in a fit of temper he punched me in the middle of my back.

Anonymous said...

By the way we all know it is not obligatory and never a priests says so.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

"I doubt whether it would be easy to find much patristic support for the thought that Christians ought to be concerned for the unity of the human family qua unredeemed -"

You may have hit the nail on the head, Father. I do not practice Catholicism but am dismayed over how one of the historic pillars of the West seems bent on reducing itself to a pious globalist NGO. This began with the confluence of Lumen Gentium and The Sixties and the dreams of ecumenism. Any healthy human tribe (in the broad sense) must see itself as the center and fulcrum of the world, with the rest of the species somehow situated outside. Til recently the Church of Rome had no doubt about that. The theocracy of Mohammed still does, unapologetically.

But being a Western religion, Catholicism was, IMHO, systemically infected by a Copernican shift. It rejected its old One True Church sense of self as “triumphalism” and ceded that image to The Human Family, with itself as one of many subsets seeking “human development.” We now see the ascendant pathetic pastoral metaphor of “accompaniment” solidifying this self-marginalization. And all the images, metaphors and doctrines of the new cosomology serve an aggressive crypto-religion, Secular Globalist Progressivism.

Unless the Roman Church regains its old sense of identity, vocation, mission and separateness from “the global human family,” it will continue to slide into confused marginality.

Richard said...

Faux-friendly hypocrisy? That sounds a bit harsh to me. I have always valued the moment when I turn to my brothers and sisters in Christ, the ones I know and the ones I don't, and greet them in His name.
Of course, we need reminding from time that we are not just saying hello to our friends.

John said...

In the old Carmelite rite the kiss of peace was specifically linked to the reception of Holy Communion. The priest gives the peace to the deacon with the words: "Habete vinculum pacis et caritates, ut apti sitis sacrosanctis mysteriis Domini nostri Iesu Christi."

modesty still a virtue said...

If the peace is related to communion with Christ, then would it not be a good thing to extend it to those attending who cannot or will not receive the Eucharist - a sort of incarnation of the idea of spiritual communion, or an extension of an invitation to get themselves ready as soon as possible to be able to receive Him who is our peace. I remember one of my friends children wanting to give me a hug after I had received communion because Jesus was in my heart (he being to young to receive the Eucharist himself). I thought the child had a good intuition in the matter.

neilmac said...

Would it not be a good idea to reintroduce, for OF Masses, the way Peace was passed in the Use of Sarum?

Here the Pax was a tablet with an image of the Crucifixion, or other sacred image, which was kissed by the priest and passed through the ranks of clergy and choir - not it seems to the congregation. But then in the true Roman Rite (EF) there is no passing of the Peace to the congregation either.

Christoph Hagen said...

Not only in the Sarum Use, even the Roman Rite in it's '62 form knows this sort of liturgical instrument, called osculatorium or pax-brede.