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Agnus Dei

(Lat. “Lamb of God”). 1. A prayer to Christ that occurs 3 times in the rite of the W. Ch. It is first sung in the Gloria in excelsis (with the additional address “Son of the Father” inserted after “O Lamb of God”). Since the 7th c. it has been sung after the consecration as a prayer to Christ present in His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Since the 10th and 11th cents.. it was sung 3 times, with “grant us Thy peace” replacing the 3d “have mercy upon us,” the latter change perhaps in accommodation to giving the kiss* of peace at this point or to the calamities the ch. was suffering. In the 11th c. the words “grant them peace” came to be used in RC requiems* as the 2d part of each line, with the 3d petition ending “everlasting peace.” In line with their denial of the sacramental* union the later Eng. reformers omitted the Agnus Dei from the Communion rite in the 1552 and later eds. of the Book* of Common Prayer. It was restored in the 1929 Scottish Liturgy but not in the 1928 American Book. The opening words “O Christ” in the Luth. rite are not an integral part of the prayer but were added 1528 in J. Bugenhagen's* Brunswick ch. order perhaps partly to meet the demands of the musical setting.

2. In Christian art, a representation of Christ as a lamb. Forms include a lamb lying (signifying suffering), in some cases on the Book of Seven Seals; standing and holding a white (symbolizing innocence) Banner of Victory (sometimes the banner is in the form of a pennant, and sometimes it bears a black or, if the symbol is in color, red cross) attached to a cruciform staff; standing on a hill from which flow 4 rivers (of Paradise, or signifying the 4 Gospels); in the center of a cross, with symbols of the 4 Evangelists at the ends of the 4 arms of the cross; standing, sometimes simply with a chalice, sometimes wounded, holding a cruciform staff and with blood flowing from its body, in some cases into a chalice; resting on a manger, representing the infant Jesus. A 3-ray nimbus* indicates that it is a symbol of God. Scripture background: Gn 2:10; 14; Ex 12; Is 53:6–7; Jn 1:29, 36; 1 Co 5:7; Rv 5.

3. In RCm, a sacramental* (in the derived sense) in the form of a molded wax medallion with the figure of a lamb; the pope blesses it in the 1st yr. of his pontificate and at 7-yr. intervals thereafter. The custom is variously dated from the 4th to the 14th cents.

4. In E Orthodox chs., a cloth embroidered with the figure of a lamb and used to cover the chalice in Communion.

5. In Anglicanism, an anthem or liturgical prayer beginning “(O) Lamb of God.” ACP, LP

See also Ambrosian Music.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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