In response to those asking for more information on the Pax, I offer the following for consideration:
The Peace. What is it?
In the search for the meaning of the innovation of "The Peace", introduced into liturgies after the 1960s, one looks for authoritative statements from Anglican sources. One such is apparently provided in the Canadian "Book of Alternative Services" (BAS) of 1985 on page 177.
"The Peace is an encounter, a reconciliation and an anticipation."
As an encounter, we are told, it is a meeting of Christ through others for "without that encounter we cannot meet God".
As a reconciliation it dramatizes the injunction of Matthew 5:23-24 where we are told to leave our gift at the altar and first be reconciled with our brother before actually offering the gift.
As an anticipation it dramatizes the Eucharist as a foretaste of the banquet in heaven by expressing peace and unity.
Finally we are told that "the style of greeting encouraged should be consistent with the sensibilities of those present".
The first point about encounter is not true or at least it is an exaggeration. God can surely come to us and we can meet him without greeting others first.
On reconciliation - Certainly, as is urged in the Exhortations within the Holy Communion Service in the classic Book of Common Prayer one ought to be in a right relation with others before coming to the Table. Whether this can be achieved in public view in a short minute or two in a service is questionable, for one may not be physically near them and the church may be full. Better to see them beforehand or afterwards, and if afterwards forgo taking H C.
On anticipation, it is possible that a devoutly reverent method of expressing a sign of peace one to another will be felt to be an experience of the SHALOM of the kingdom of God. However, it is difficult to understand how the common walkabout and hugging speak of that future unity where our bodies will be spiritual and immortal, wholly reverent and perfectly joyful.
These three themes sound good, can be good, but hardly fit what is possible and what goes on in most parishes in Canada or the USA or the UK.
It is seemingly impossible to recreate today what the apostles intended when they wrote, "Greet the brethren with a holy kiss."
Best to make people feel welcome at the door and as they leave show appreciation of them and also invite them to fellowship meetings midweek or after the Divine Liturgy. Let the Holy Kiss be used (as in Greek Orthodoxy) where possible and desired by the Priest & deacon at the Holy Table and let them do it on behalf of all present!
(The explanation offered by Hatchett in his Commentary on the 1979 Prayer Book on page 345 does not really help us forward at all. Apparently this gesture was never fully explained when it was introduced as an innovation and it has got out of hand so that no one knows any more why it was so necessary to have introduced it at all from the 1970s in the West. Liturgists thought that they had discovered something that would be beneficial and so they put it into all the new services and there it remains being interpreted in a variety of ways and means around the world.)
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)