Friday, April 21, 2023

The Rite of Blessing of the Agnus Deis (Part 2)

Following up on our post on Tuesday about the blessing of the Agnus Deis, yesterday we published the text of the blessing promulgated by Pope Benedict XIV, and today we give a previous version from the late 15th century. This post is reproduced with some modifications from the website of the Cappella Gregoriana Sanctae Caecilia (St Cecilia Gregorian Choir), based in Manilla in the Philippine Islands, with their kind permission, and our thanks.

Dom Prosper Guéranger, in volume 7 of his L’Année liturgique, quotes an even older source for the prayers of the blessing of the Agnus Dei, and that is the Cæremoniale Romanum (Latin text in pdf here), published in 1488 by two-time papal master of ceremonies, Agostino Patrizi Piccolomini, bishop of Pienza and Montalcino, erected from the diocese of Arezzo on 13 August 1462, later split in 1582 into the independent sees of Pienza and Montalcino. Here is an English translation of the prayers based on Dom Guéranger’s French rendition, and below is our translation based on the original Latin.

The prayers in the older version are much, much longer, and the immediate ancestors of the prayers in the text published in 1752. The older version confirms that the water consecrated at the start of the ceremony is already blessed, carried out beforehand as usual either by the Pope himself or by any of his domestic prelates. Other ceremonials call the consecrated water the water of the New Lamb, by reason of the sole and eminent purpose it is reserved. Because the collects are untrimmed, we can clearly discover the Scriptural foundations of this special blessing reserved alone to the Pope. Unlike the 1752 rite, which arranges the constitutive prayers addressed to God from Father to Son to Holy Spirit, the 1488 rite addresses God first the Father, then the Holy Spirit, and finally the Son.

The frontispiece of a copy of Piccolomini’s Caerimoniale, ca. 1500. The kneeling man, whose identity is unknown, presents a copy of the book to Cardinal Georges d’Amboise; the inscription says “My Lord, on my return from Rome, I give you this book.” (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des manuscrits. Latin 938)
Blessing of waxen Agnus Dei
according to the 1488 Cæremoniale Romanum
On any day after Easter, before Low Saturday, having said or heard Mass in his private Chapel, the Supreme Pontiff, vested in amice, alb, cincture, and simple mitre, blesses water with the usual blessing, as is done on Sundays by priests, in a vessel thither prepared, and, if it is more suitable, said water may be blessed beforehand by one of the Pope’s domestic Prelates. Then, the Pontiff approaches the aforesaid vessel, and, the mitre removed, standing, says:

V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
R. Who hath made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray. O Lord God, Father almighty, Founder of all the elements and Keeper of mankind, Giver of spiritual grace and Bestower of eternal salvation, Who didst vouchsafe the waters flowing from the spring of Paradise to irrigate all the earth, upon which Thy Only-begotten Son hath walked with dry feet, and hath deigned to be baptised in them, which hath flowed forth with His Blood from His most holy side, and hath commanded His Disciples to baptise all nations in them: benignantly and mercifully attend, and let the grace of Thy blessing come upon us who remember these Thy wonders, that Thou mayest bless and, having been blest, sanctify the objects, which We cause to be cast and plunged in this vessel of water that was prepared for the glory of Thy Name, that, by the veneration and honour of these same objects, crimes may be washed off us Thy servants, stains of sins may be wiped off us, pardons may be obtained for us, graces may be granted to us, and we may finally merit to attain eternal life together with Thy saints and elect. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The Pontiff then receives the Mitre again, and pours Balsam from its ampoule into the Water, in the form of a cross, saying:

Deign, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these waters through this anointing of balsam, and Our blessing. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And he signs thrice. Then, from another ampoule, He pours holy Chrism into the same Water, likewise in the form of a cross, saying:

Deign, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these waters through this holy anointing of Chrism, and Our blessing. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Supreme Pontiff, with mitre, having received consecrated water with a silver spoon, consecrates another water: then, he turns towards the baskets, where the Agnus Dei are, and, the mitre removed, standing, says upon them:

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray. O God of all hallowing, Lord and Ruler, Whose unending mercy is felt: Who didst vouchsafe Abraham, the father of our faith, arranging by Thy commandment to immolate Isaac his son as a foreshadowing of our redemption, to accomplish his sacrifice through a ram stuck amongst the brambles; and didst order Moyses, Thy lawgiving servant, that a perpetual holocaust should be offered in lambs without blemish: humbly we beseech Thee that, implored by the duty of our voice, Thou mayest deign to bless and, through the invocation of Thy Holy Name, sanctify these waxen figures fashioned with the image of the most innocent Lamb, that, at their touch and sight, the faithful may be invited to prayers; the crash of hailstorms, the storm of whirlwinds, the force of tempests, the rage of winds, the troublesome thunders may be subdued; malignant spirits may flee and tremble before the banner of the Holy Cross, which is engraved into them, to which all knee bendeth, and all tongue confesseth, for death being vanquished through the gibbet of the Cross, Jesus Christ reigneth in the glory of God the Father: for He, led as a lamb unto the slaughter, in death offered Thee, Father, the Holy Sacrifice of His Body, that He may guide back the lost sheep that was waylaid by the devil’s deceit, and bring it back carried upon His shoulders unto the fold of the heavenly homeland: He Who liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

He says another Collect:

Let us pray. Almighty and eternal God, Who art the Founder of the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Law, and didst establish them to be accomplished for mankind’s atonement, just as Thy creation, which, deceived by the intimation of the devil, incurred Thy indignation in their disdain towards the empire of Thy majesty, and as Thou didst vouchsafe to be pleased in their obedience to these victims and sacrifices, as Thou didst establish in the sacrifice of Abel’s lamb of the firstfruits, and in the oblation of Melchisedech Thy Priest, and in the immolation of Abraham’s, Moyses’, and Aaron’s victims, lambs, rams, and fattened bulls, with Thy servants humbly offering as a foreshadowing everything that came in contact with them, because with Thy holy blessing, they became holy and salvific: and like the lamb, from whose blood the side posts and upper posts of the house were anointed, being immolated, delivered Thy people at midnight from the striking of the Egyptians; and in the same manner that the innocent Lamb, by Thy will immolated on the altar of the Cross, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, did deliver our forefathers from the power of the devil: so may these Lambs without blemish, which we offer to be consecrated before Thy divine majesty, receive that power: mayest Thou deign to bless, sanctify, and consecrate them, that, sanctified by Thy generous blessing, they may receive the same power against all cunning of the devil, and deceits of malignant spirits, that may no tempest prevail against those devoutly bearing these Lambs upon themselves, may no adversity rule over them, may no pestilential breeze or corruption of air, and no mortal disease, no storm and tempest of the sea, no conflagration, nor any wickedness rule over them, nor may man prevail against them: may a safe delivery with the mother be kept through the intercession of Thy Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

We pray Thy mercy, O almighty God, Who didst create everything out of nothing, and, after Adam’s fall, didst bless Noe and his sons, who lived justly before Thy majesty, and were saved by Thy mercy from the waters of the deluge: mayest Thou thus deign to bless, sanctify, and consecrate these Lambs, so that those bearing them, out of reverence and honour to Thy Name, may be delivered from all inundation of waters, and from all vicissitudes of the devil’s tempest, and from sudden death, through the power of the Passion of Jesus Christ, Thy blessed Son: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

These done, the Supreme Pontiff is girded with a linen apron, and, having received the mitre, sits by the vessel of water, and the servers bring to him the Agnus Dei in silver platters, which the Pontiff plunges into the water, and the attending prelates take them out, and bring them in platters upon tables prepared with clean cloths, that they may be dried; and all having been baptised by the Pontiff, or by his prelates, the Supreme Pontiff, rising, and standing without mitre, says these Collects upon them:

Let us pray. O nourishing Spirit, Who makest the waters fruitful, and givest life to all, and didst establish every great sacrament in the substance of the waters, which, having relinquished bitterness, were transformed unto sweetness, and, sanctified by Thy breath, by impulse of the reception of the laver (of Baptism), at the invocation of the Name of the Holy Trinity, wash away sins: we beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou mayest deign to bless, sanctify, and consecrate these Lambs, poured forth with the sacred and everlasting water and with the balsam of holy Chrism, so that, being blessed by Thee, they may receive power against all the devil’s temptations, and all who bear them may be protected amidst adversity and prosperity, that, having received Thy consolation, they may fear no peril, and dread no shadow, and no devil’s savagery or man’s cunning may inflict harm upon them, but, strengthened in the fortitude of Thy power, they may glorify in Thy consolation, Thou Who truly art called the Paraclete, and livest and reignest in perfect Trinity: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who truly art the innocent Lamb, the Priest and the Victim, Who art foretold by the voice of the prophets as the vine and the cornerstone, Who didst wash away the sins of the world, Who, being slaughtered, didst redeem us, O Lord God, in Thy Blood, and didst anoint with Thy Blood the posts of our breast and brow, lest the devil’s nighttime cunning, and noontime onslaught, and the people thrashing and passing over our houses, display their violence before us: Thou truly art the Lamb without blemish for our atonement, and didst vouchsafe to be perpetually immolated by Thy faithful in Thy memory, and to be eaten as the paschal Lamb under the species of bread and wine in the Sacrament unto the salvation and the remedy of our souls, that, having sojourned across the sea and the present age, we may come to the glory of the resurrection and eternity: we beseech therefore Thy mercy, and mayest Thou deign to bless, sanctify, and consecrate these Lambs without blemish, which we have formed in Thy honour from virgin wax through the merits of the Cross, and, confected with holy water, and balsam, and the liquor of holy Chrism as a hallowing of Thy Conception, which Thou didst receive by divine power alone, without human contact and posterity, mayest Thou thus uphold, protect, and defend those who bear these Lambs from all danger of conflagration, lightning, storm, and tempest, and guard them from all adversity through the mystery of Thy Passion, and mayest Thou thus deign to deliver them and those labouring in childbirth from all perils, as Thou didst deliver Thy Mother from all peril, and Susanna from false accusation, and blessed Thecla Thy Virgin and Martyr from conflagrations; and just as Thou didst cause Peter, freed from fetters, to escape unscathed, mayest Thou cause us to depart unharmed from this age, that we may prevail to live with Thee without end: Who livest and reignest in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

These done, the Agnus Dei are placed back in their baskets, and then, on Low Saturday, after the Agnus Dei at Mass, they are given, as is more fully described in the ceremony of the mentioned day.

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