The time has come when we must reflect upon the Sign of Peace. Prudence, respect for our fellow Mass-goers and our reverent love for the Holy Sacrifice, demand that we look objectively at this gesture; it can become too unrestrained and long drawn-out, diverting attention from our preparation for that sacred moment when our Lord Himself is enthroned within us.
The Church, in her concern that we worship God fittingly, and gain all the Graces this worship brings, has formulated certain rules which govern liturgical celebrations, actions and words, both for Priest and People; not so long ago, for example, we were presented with a more faithful translation of the Mass.
The Fathers of Vatican II called for a more active participation by the Faithful in Holy Mass; it must be understood that this participation is not in the form of increased physical activity which, obviously, distracts attention, but rather, internally, deepened through a greater knowledge and understanding of this Central Act of our Faith. We need to consider that the Mass is Christ's once-for-all Sacrifice which has given ultimate meaning and purpose to our lives and that we are there to unite ourselves with this Sacrifice and receive the Victim in Holy Communion.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (82) recently reiterated by Rome makes it abundantly clear that,"....It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober (i.e. dignified) manner...."; generally, that would be the person we are standing beside at Mass. The whole document is well worth reading and can be found HERE.
It has clearly become necessary to restore to this highly significant act, the dignity it deserves, so that it does not, in fact, distract us and others from, or disrupt our preparation for the closest encounter with Christ until we join Him in Heaven forever. The very fact that we are together at Mass is, surely, also a sign of Peace existing among us.
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church