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AGNUS
AGNUS
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ceremonial; and finally, the deacon, laying the "Lamb" down in the disk, says to the priest: "Sir, sacrifice"; to which the priest, while cutting it crosswise, answers: "The Lamb of God is sacrificed, Who taketh away the sin of the word, for the life and salvation of the world" (Neale, loc. cit., 343, 344). While it is true that, unlike several other liturgies, the Roman contains no longer any chant for the fraction of the Host, the Agnus Dei, although not properly a prayer therefor, occupies the void sufficiently well; and, more condensed than that of St. James, and quite different from that of St. Chrysostom, quoted above, it appears in the Roman Mass with all the symmetry of ceremonial and of appropriate symbolism possible to a liturgy.

The words of the "Liber Pontificalis" (a clero et a populo decantetur) suggest the question whether previously the formula had been sung by the choir alone, as Mabillon infers, and as was the case in the ninth century and in the time of Innocent III (d. 1216). Originally the celebrant did not recite it himself, as his other functions sufficiently occupied his attention; but certainly by the thirteenth century the introduction of this feature must have become common, Durandus noting that some priests recited it with their hands resting on the altar, others with hands joined before the breast. Originally, too, recited or sung but once, Martène shows that its triple recitation was prescribed in some churches—for example, in that of Tours, before the year 1000; and Jean Beleth, a canon of Paris, writing in the twelfth century, remarks: "Agnus Dei ter canitur". About the same time the custom was introduced of substituting "dona nobis pacem" for the third "miserere nobis"; although by way of exception, the third "miserere" was said on Holy Thursday (perhaps because on that day the "kiss of peace" is not given). A sufficient reason for the substitution of "dona nobis pacem" might be found in its appropriateness as a preparation for the "kiss of peace" (the Pax) which follows, although Innocent III ascribes its introduction to disturbances and calamities affecting the Church. The Lateran Basilica, however, retains the ancient custom of the triple "miserere". No trace of the Agnus Dei is found in the Roman Mass of the Missal of Bobbio, or in that of Stowe; nor is it found in the Mozarabic, the Gelasian, or Ambrosian (except in Ambrosian Requiem Masses, where it occurs with triple invocation, as in the Roman Missal, but adds to the third invocation the words "et locum indulgentiæ cum sanctis tuis in gloriâ"). It has been said above that the Agnus Dei now follows the prayer "Hæc commixtio". It preceded that prayer, however, in so many manuscripts of the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, that one liturgist looks on the formula as the ordinary conclusion of the Canon of the Mass in the Middle Ages. As in the case of the "Kyrie eleison" and other texts of the Ordinary of the Mass (e.g. the Gloria, Sequence, Credo, Sanctus, Hosanna, Ite, missa est), the words of the Agnus Dei were often considerably extended by tropes, styled by the Romans (in ignorance, perhaps, of their Greek origin) Festivæ Laudes. These additions were prefaces, or intercalations, or concluding sentences or phrases, sometimes bearing a strict connection with the meaning of the text, sometimes constituting practically individual compositions with only a titular relation to the text. Cardinal Bona gives an interesting one:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Crimina tollis, aspera molis, Agnus honoris,
Miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Vulnera sanas, ardua planas, Agnus amoris,
Miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Sordida mundas, cuncta fœcundas, Agnus odoris,
Dona nobis pacem.

The Cardinal does not mention the date of his source; but the poem is given by Blume and Bannister in their "Tropi Graduales" [Analecta Hymnica (Leipzig, 1905), XLVII, 398], with several dated MS. references. This splendid collection contains no fewer than ninety-seven tropes of the Agnus Dei alone. The following trope of the tenth century will illustrate another form, of which there are many examples, in classical hexameters:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

  1. Omnipotens, æterna Dei Sapientia, Christe, miserere nobis, Agnus Dei … peccata mundi,
  2. Verum subsistens veo de lumine lumen, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei … peccata mundi,
  3. Optima perpetuæ concedens gaudia vitæ, dona nobis pacem.

Sometimes the tropes were not in measure, whether classical or accentual, but merely in a rude kind of rhymed, or rather, assonantal prose; as the following (tenth century), which was the triple "miserere nobis" instead of "dona …" etc.:

  1. Agnus Dei … peccata mundi,
    Omnipotens, pie,
    te precamur assidue,
    miserere nobis.
  2. Agnus Dei … peccata mundi,
    Qui cuncta creasti,
    Nobis semper (te) adiunge,
    miserere nobis.
  3. Agnus Dei … peccata mundi,
    Redemptor, Christe,
    Exoramus te supplices,
    miserere nobis.

Sometimes they were very brief, sometimes extensive, as the following (of which space will allow but one strophe) of the thirteenth century:

  1. Agnus Dei,
    Sine peccati macula
    solus permanens
    cuncta per sæcula,
    nostra crimina dele,
    qui tollis peccata mundi;
    Hæc enim gloria soli
    Domino est congrua;
    Miserere nobis.

Two other uses of the Agnus Dei may be mentioned briefly. First, before giving Holy Communion, whether during or outside of Mass, the priest holds a particle up for the faithful to see, saying: "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Domine non sum dignus", etc. The use of the formula in this connection appears to be of comparatively recent date. Anciently the formula used was simply "Corpus Christi", "Sanguis Christi", to which the faithful answered "Amen", a formula similar to that in the Liturgy of St. Mark: "The Holy Body", "The precious Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour". Secondly, at the end of litanies the formula appears as follows: "Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, Parce nobis, Domine" (Spare us, O Lord). "Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, Exaudi nos, Domine" (Graciously hear us, O Lord). "Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis" (Have mercy on us). Thus, for the litanies of the Saints and for that of Loreto. The litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus adds the word Jesu to the last word, and substitutes Jesu for Domine in the previous two endings. In the so-called "Litania Romana", found in an old MS.