There is a lot going on during the “Communion Rite” at this point in the Mass, but since there are only “40 Lessons on the Mass in Lent” I am unable to comment on all of them. I invite you to get a copy of the Daily Roman Missal or any other worship resource that has the prayers, the secret prayers, and the rubrics for your study. You will learn a lot and your hunger for the Eucharist will grow.
So let me comment on the “Sign of Peace”, which the reform of the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council recovered and inserted into this part of the Mass. Some think we should have the “sign of peace” at the beginning of the Mass so we can be more focused at this point on receiving Holy Communion.
As it turns out, the ‘rubrics’ state that the priest says “The peace of the Lord be with you always” and the people respond, “And with your spirit.” But then the rubrics point out: “Then, if appropriate, the Deacon or the Priest, adds: “Let us offer each other a sign of peace.”
So, it is not mandatory to have the sign of peace, and sometimes it is omitted at weekday Masses. For funerals and weddings and other very special occasions it is not uncommon that the exchange of a sign of peace takes longer and is more involved as the circumstances warrant. The sign of peace that we exchange should be in keeping “with local custom … to express peace, communion, and charity.” Here in the USA the custom is a handshake. In other countries it is a smile, and in still other countries a hug.
But the ‘sign of peace’ remains only a sign if there is not a deeper commitment to charity, love, and forgiveness of our neighbor.