Agnus Dei / Lamb of God

File:AGNUS DEI.jpgIn most liturgies, the Agnus Dei immediately follows the Words of Institution. The Agnus Dei is based on John the Baptist’s short sermon, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This short song brings the liturgy of the Divine Service to a sort of fulfillment. In the Kyrie we sang “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” In the Agnus Dei, this is repeated: “Lamb of God,… have mercy on us,… have mercy on us,… grant us peace.” In the Gloria in Excelsis we sang most of the words while singing the praise of Christ, “Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us.” The words of the Agnus Dei also reflect on the words of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

In one form or another, the Agnus Dei has been part of the Western Rite since the seventh century. It is has been called the “fraction anthem,” meaning that the bread for Holy Communion would be broken while it is sung. In some traditions, the distribution of Holy Communion begins with the Agnus Dei. Here is the standard English text from ELLC:

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.

The Latin text and other English versions of the text can be seen in this Wikipedia article.

The German translation from the time of the Reformation added “Christe,” or “O Christ,” either to clarify who the Lamb of God is, or to fill out the meter of the notes so that the German text could be sung to the same notes as the Latin. Here is the German tune from Luther’s Deutsches Messe, “Christe, du Lamm Gottes.” 

Agnus Dei
WELS Book of Hymns, 1920, 1931

And in the video it is sung with the English text, “O Christ, Lamb of God” at the 2017 WELS National Worship Conference.  It is preceded by an intonation and a new harmonization by Kermit Moldenhauer.

Since the Reformation, this hymn version of the Agnus Dei by Nicholas Decius was also sung as a German Agnus Dei:

Here it is in English with the new standard text in a contemporary setting by Ricky Manalo:

Here is the Latin text, sung to a setting by Samuel Barber. When performed by an orchestra with no choir, it is called the Adagio for Strings. It is very beautiful and haunting with the Latin text:

 

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pastorstratman

Lutheran pastor serving St. Stephen's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

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