Ecce Agnus Dei – Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi

Behold the Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

The Syrian custom of a chant addressed to the Lamb of God was introduced into the Roman Rite Mass by Pope Sergius I (687–701)

What rays of light stream from, these inspired words, spoken of old on the banks of Jordan by that “Angel,” who went before the face of Christ and echoed thousands of times in the aisles of the Church, by His Priests about to administer Holy Communion! 

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Giovanni Cardinal della Bona (1609–†1674) provides us an interesting version of the Agnus Dei:

“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 foecundas, Agnus odoris, Dona nobis pacem.”

The Cardinal does not mention the date of his source; but the poem is given by Clemens Blume and Henry Marriott Bannister in their “Tropi Graduales: Tropen des Missale im Mittelalter, aus handschriftlichen Quellen” [Leipzig, 1906], with several dated manuscript 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, Omnipotens, aeterna Dei Sapientia, Christe, miserere nobis, Agnus Dei… peccata mundi, Verum subsistens veo de lumine lumen, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei. . . peccata mundi, Optima perpetuae concedens gaudia vitae, dona nobis pacem.

Countless other titles might be used: “Behold the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords,” “The Word,” etc., but the Holy Spirit directs God’s Church, speaks through her voice, and it is “the Lamb” she presents to our faith, hope, desire, adoration and love. To our faith: Jesus is God and man, “Lamb of God,”  “Light of Light,” in His Divine Nature, a victim in His Sacred Humanity, for us men and for our salvation. We behold him, by faith, beneath the Eucharistic veils, before we “see Him as He is,” a “King in His beauty.” He appeals to our confidence, for He has taken away “the sins of the world,” and comes in sweetness and mercy, to “preserve us unto life everlasting,” free us more and more from their bondage, renew the memory of His Passion, fill our minds with grace, and, finally, give us a pledge of future glory. Behold, desire, adore this Divine Lamb! love, thirst for Him, like the royal Psalmist, “from break of day,”∬ or like “the Angel of the schools and of the altar,” for the vision of His face.

These beautiful words also present Jesus as the archetype of our imitation in all virtues relating to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. What humility, obedience, self-sacrifice in this priestly victim of the Father’s glory! And he much desires we should unite our selves to the dispositions of His Sacred Heart, especially at Holy Mass! “Behold, I come to do Thy will! Not my will but Thine be done! Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!” This Adorable Heart is a “golden censer in the hands of the great High Priest.” Let us put ourselves like incense into the Altar fire of Divine love and “die daily” for His sake. “Ecce Agnus Dei!”  The gentle teacher of fraternal love “Greater love than this no man hath!” We have already alluded to His mercy, taking away sins, for our attention is especially called to this, and oh! how consoling to souls just freed from the enemy and still struggling with their temptations and passions, to look up humbly at the Immaculate Lamb, and remember that, by one word, he can heal them. 

Zurbarán, Francisco de
Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz (Spain), 1598 – Madrid (Spain), 1664 in the Museo Del Prado

To souls advancing in holiness, Jesus whispers, “Learn of me, come to me and I will refresh you.”  “Behold this Heart which has so loved men!” And to those called to a state of perfection. He promises the Virgin’s crown. They are to follow him more closely, not only here, but also in His Kingdom, as “the Lamb,”  and sing of His chaste espousals. 

In all that regards ourselves. He is the source; the Exemplar, the means of practising lamb-like docility, for, as a holy writer remarks, “You can lead it by a silken thread.” Purity, for He is “holy innocent, undefiled”; mortification — This Eucharistic Victim is “as it were slain.” Let us then behold the “Lamb of God,” and pray that His image may be reflected in our souls, so that when called to the marriage feast, in God’s restful Kingdom, illumined by His radiance, we may eternally chant with Angelic choirs, and the multitude of blessed ones who have washed their robes in His Precious Blood. “to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever.” — Revelation 5:13 (New Catholic Bible).

O, Sacred Heart! Ere fades the eve. In this sweet month of Thine, Accept, as mystic coronal. These living thoughts of mine. 

“Prayer Of Thanks For The Blood Of Christ”

Lamb of God, I Adore You for all that You are and I thank You for all that You have done for me. Only You are able to pacify the heart of God the Father, bringing loving peace and eternal hope to all of human kind. The burden of sin was dissolved when You gave Yourself to become the Sacrificial Lamb. I am eternally indebted and grateful to You for Your absolute obedience and unceasing compassion. Amen.

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“O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur: Recolitur memoria, recolitur memoria passionis eius: Mens impletur gratia: Et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur. Alleluia.” O sacrum convivium. Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585)

Translation: “O sacred feast, at which Christ is the meat: The memory of his passion is recalled: The mind is filled with grace: And a pledge of future glory is given to us. Alleluia.”

Psalmus David, cum esset in deserto Idumaeae. “Deus, Deus meus, at te de luce Vigilo.” — Psalmi 62:2 (Biblia Sacra Vulgata). Translation: A Psalm of David. When he was in the wilderness of Judah. “O God, you are my God, for whom I have been searching earnestly.” Psalm 62:2 (New Catholic Bible)

“Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio, Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio: Ut te revelata cernens facie, Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen.” Adoro te devote St. Thomas Aquinas ca. 1264.

Translation: “Jesus, whom now I see hidden, I ask You to fulfil what I so desire: That the sight of Your Face being unveiled I may have the happiness of seeing Your glory. Amen.”

Rev. Fr. Ugo-Maria Ginex, Eremita Sancti Brunonis.