Agnus Dei (liturgy)

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The Fractio panis rite at which the Agnus Dei is sung or said

In the Mass of the Roman Rite and also in the Eucharist of the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, and the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church the Agnus Dei is the invocation to the Lamb of God sung or recited during the fraction of the Host.[1]

History[edit]

The Syrian custom of a chant addressed to the Lamb of God was introduced into the Roman Rite Mass by Pope Sergius I (687–701),[2][3] in the context of his rejection of the Quinisext Council, which had forbidden the depiction of Christ as a Lamb.[4]

The chant[edit]

Based upon John the Baptist's reference in John 1:29 to Jesus ("Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world"), the text in Latin is:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

which means:

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

The text used in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Church is:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.[5]

The following three versions are all found in the Church of England's Common Worship liturgical resources.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant us thy peace.
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us peace.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, § 83, states: "The supplication Agnus Dei, is, as a rule, sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; or it is, at least, recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the fraction and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has reached its conclusion, the last time ending with the words dona nobis pacem (grant us peace)."

In Tridentine Requiem Masses, the first two invocations ended with "dona eis requiem" (give them rest) instead of "miserere nobis", and the last with "dona eis requiem sempiternam" (give them rest eternal).

The Agnus Dei is part of nearly all settings by composers of sung masses.

Other uses[edit]

The priest again uses the phrase "Lamb of God", in a more complete quotation from John 1:29, when displaying the consecrated Host (or the Host and Chalice) to the people before giving them Holy Communion. He says: "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt" (Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb).[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]