The kiss of peace

Friends in Christ, today Our Lord says, ‘ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.’  
These are the exact words we use at Mass before the sign of peace. The peace that Christ gives is not that of the world.  The world sees peace as the cessation of war, or the end of fighting, or the end of arguing. But Christ’s peace is different.
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Thomas Aquinas defines peace as the union of wills, our will united to God’s will.  Doing God’s will in our life, no matter the cost –  this brings the peace that God can give to our soul.   
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The sign of peace at Mass is a sign of this peace. The priest offers it only after Christ is present on the altar. It is Christ then, who offers his peace to his brethren.  
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The sign of peace that we have at Mass has, through history, been called the ‘Kiss of Peace,’ and St. Paul refers to this.  In the early Church, the kiss of peace was given – on the lips!  It was literally a kiss, in which the person turned to their neighbor and kissed them.  It is not quite so surprising, when we remember that a kiss between unrelated people was at that time, a sign of respect.  
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Later, in different parts of the church, more stylized kisses of peace were done.  Among the Syrians, each person clasps the hands of his neighbor, and kisses them.  Maronite Catholics clasp the neighbor’s fingers, then kiss them. In the Latin Solemn High Mass, the clergy give the light, Roman embrace. Priests and Deacons often continue this at the Sign of peace, a light embrace of the arms as is done in Rome.
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In Europe, there is the ‘cheek kiss’, in Japan it is a deep bow to one another, and in India the palms are put together in a bow.  In the 13th century in England, they used an ornate plaque  imprinted with a picture of Christ. The plaque was kissed and passed along, each person kissing it; this was actually specified in the Missal of Pius V.   
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In some places, the priest would kiss the Sacred Host, and then kiss the Deacon, who would kiss the servers,  and then the people, all of it originating from the Sacred Host. And this is the point: the peace that we desire, can only originate in Jesus.  

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