Saturday, May 09, 2009

Troping the Agnus Dei

At The Catholic Answer, the question came up:

Q. I recently went to Mass, and all of a sudden the Lamb of God prayer has changed. Instead of the traditional words, there is now a much longer formula, which I cannot bring myself to say. It seems like more of a “let’s make a noisy time-waster so the crowd won’t get bored while the priest does his business”; elevator music, if you will.

I thought the Lamb of God was a standard Eucharistic prayer and was not to be changed, but here are the new and improved words, verbatim: “Lamb of God … Prince of Peace … Bread of Life … King of Kings … Lord of Lords … Hope for All.” (Sing verses three to seven times, as time requires.)

Is the Lamb of God prayer supposed to be modified like this? What is wrong with a little respectful silence? I am just not comfortable waiting for a cue in to end this prayer. I have to sit it out.

The answer is given as follows:
No. 83 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal addresses the specific issue you raise: “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].”

When the invocation Agnus Dei is repeated more than three times, it is meant to accompany the liturgical action of the celebrant with a prayerful chant. Silence is necessary as part of the liturgy, but there are other moments reserved for silence. From the indications set forth in the GIRM, it is not at all apparent that permission has been granted to add new words (“King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Bread of Angels”), no matter how beautiful and fitting they might seem.

Nevertheless, the version you mention is well known, and I have not heard objections to it in the past. Still, my sense is that the words “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” should be repeated just as they are until the rite has reached its conclusion and the people pray “grant us peace.”

It seems that it would have been enough quote GIRM 366. "It is not permitted to substitute other chants for those found in the Order of Mass, such as at the Agnus Dei."

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