The passing of God’s peace has a biblical root. Saint Paul talks about a Holy Kiss (1 Corinthians 16:20) and a sending out of peace to brothers and sisters of Christ (Ephesians 6:23-24). Saint John speaks of sending peace as well (3 John 15). Jesus speaks of giving us His peace through the Holy Spirit. (John 14:27) It is indeed the supernatural peace of Christ that we share during this time.
It is no coincidence that the passing of the peace is placed where it is. We have all just received God’s peace through our repentance and God’s forgiveness. We respond to God’s action by bringing God’s peace to our neighbors and the world. As a part of our devotion to God we make right all our relationships.
So what is it that we are doing when we Pass the Peace?
First, this peace proclaims the supernatural unity that we share in Christ. “The natural divisions of race, class, age and social status that keep people apart are overcome. Even the categories of righteous and unrighteous, decent and indecent people, are overcome.” (In the Breaking of the Bread p 43) The Bible tells us that we are one body with many members (1 Corinthians 12:12) and that it is the peace that Jesus gives us through His Spirit that makes us one. (Ephesians 3:1-3). When we greet one another and especially those we might not naturally be connected with we make visible the unity that we have in Christ.
Second, the passing of the peace gives us an opportunity to fix any unforgiveness that we might be harboring with each other before we receive communion. Saint Paul warns us that we are to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in a worthy manner. (1 Corinthians 11:27) Part of this is doing our best to live in peace and unity with our neighbors. Jesus tells us that we should reconcile with our brothers and sisters before coming to offer anything to the Lord. (Matthew 5:23) The passing of the peace gives us a place to accomplish this act.
People And with your spirit.
Then the Ministers and People may greet one another in the Name of the Lord.