The General Instruction says: “it is appropriate that each person, in a sober manner, offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest.” But even this is vague. What if you are the only person in your section of the pew? And note that no rubric specifies the handshake as the appropriate gesture.We do that just because this is our cultural custom. In general, this whole part of the Mass invites confusion and awkwardness, and no matter how much we try to solemnize it, it still has more of the feeling of a civic or social activity than a truly liturgical one. At worst, it can result in hurt feelings and all around confusion. Replacing Sung Propers with Something Else Since the earliest centuries, the liturgy assigned particular scriptural texts to particular liturgical days.How many have read the repeated urgings in the General Instruction to sing the assigned chant or at least use the text in the official choir books rather than just choose a random song loosely based on the theme of the season? Their Gregorian originals are stunningly evocative of the liturgical spirit and even define it.
The formality just wasn’t there to encourage a more sober, careful, and accurate presentation.
It is also ridiculously presumptuous for any one person to imagine that he has a better idea than the liturgical text formed from 2,000 years of tradition.
I have my own theory on why it is so common for celebrants to just make things up on the spot.
Or they can seem subtly manipulative, trying to get us to think and believe things about the controversies of the day that are actually more in dispute than the prayer would indicate.
A particular annoyance to me are the prayers that are crafted to straddle some kind of triangulating political position that has nothing to do with the liturgy or doctrine or morals.