Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday of Easter: the Blessing of the Agnus Dei

The ceremony of the Blessing of the Agnus Dei wax is a lovely old Catholic tradition that was sadly left by the wayside in the 1960s.     

It is a ceremony performed by the pope in the first year of his pontificate and, later, every seven years. 

The Agnus Dei are discs of wax on which are imprinted on one side the image of the Lamb of God and the other that of a saint. The custom of blessing them during the Easter holidays is very old and is believed to trace its origins back to the fifth century although it is said the first authentic records go back to the ninth century.  The ceremonial used for the blessing goes back to the sixteenth century.The blessed wax, contained in the packaging of the Agnus Dei, is that of the Paschal candle from the previous year, to which is also mingled Holy Chrism. In the Middle Ages the task of mixing the wax and stamping the sacred footprints was entrusted to sub-deacons and acolytes of the palace.  Today it belongs to the men of the Order of Cistercians, who live in Rome in the monastery of San Bernardo at Tre Fontane. 
The ceremony takes place in a throne room in the Apostolic Palace, where a large basin filled with holy water is prepared. The Pope draws near and, first, says this prayer (my translation) wearing the gold mitre: 

"Lord God, the Father Almighty, Creator of the elements, curator of mankind, author of grace and eternal salvation, you who have ordered the waters that came from Paradise wetting all the earth; you whose only son walked by the foot and stepped on the water and baptized in their breasts; then poured water mixed with blood from his most sacred side, and commanded his disciples to baptize all nations: you be there propitious and spread your blessing on us that we celebrate all these wonders so that they are blessed and sanctified through you, these objects that we will immerse ourselves in these waters, and that the honor and reverence that we will bring them deserve to us, yourservants, the forgiveness of sins, forgiveness and grace, finally eternal life with your saints and your elected."The Pope, after these words, pours the balm and the Holy Chrism on the water of the basin, asking God to consecrate it to the use to which it is to serve. Then, turning to the baskets in which are accumulated the footprints of wax, say this prayer: 

"O God, author of all holiness, whose goodness is always with us; you that when Abraham, the father of our faith, was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac in obedience to your order, you wished that consumed the sacrifice by means of 'offer of a ram which had held a bush; You who have commanded, through Moses your servant, the annual sacrifice of lambs without blemish, deign, for our prayers, bless these forms of wax that bear the imprint of' innocent lamb, and sanctify them through invocation of your holy name; so that, through their contact and their view, the faithful are invited to prayer, storms and storms moved away, and the evil spirits put to flight by virtue of the Holy Cross that there is embossed, before which every knee will bend, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, having conquered death by means of the scaffold of the cross, reigns in the glory of God the Father. It is he who was being led to the death as a sheep to the slaughter, has offered you, to you his Father, the sacrifice of his body, that he might bring the lost sheep who had been seduced by the fraud of the devil, and bring it back on his shoulders to reunite the flock of heavenly homeland. Almighty and eternal God, tutor of ceremonies and sacrifices of the Law, which you agreed to quench your anger, which had incurred the abusive man when offered the hosts of atonement; You who have appreciated the sacrifices of Abel, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses and Aaron; sacrifices that were not that of the figures, but that, for your blessing, were made holy and healthy for those who humbly offered them there; deign to do that, in the same manner that the innocent Lamb, Jesus Christ, your Son, sacrificed on the altar of the Cross for your desire, our first father freed from the power of the devil, so the lambs without blemish that we present to the blessing of your divine majesty receive a virtue beneficial. Deign to bless them, to sanctify, to consecrarli, to give them the power to protect those who will take them devotedly on them against the malice of the devil, against storms, the corruption of the air, the diseases, the dangers of fire, and the pitfalls of the enemies and make sure they are effective to protect the mother and its fruit in the dangers of childbirth. Through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord." 

After these prayers, the Pope, with a towel, sits in the faldstool. His assistants bring you the Agnus Dei; he plunges them into the water, thus depicting the baptism of our newcomers. Some prelates then withdraw them and lay them on tables covered with white linen sheets. Then the Pontiff rises and pronounce this other prayer: 

"Divine Spirit, which fertilized the waters and serves your greatest mysteries, you who remove their bitterness and sweet you make it, sanctifying them with your breath, you can serve them to erase all sins by means of invocation of the Holy Trinity, deign to bless, sanctify and consecrate these lambs that have been thrown in the holy water, and saturated with conditioner and the Sacred Chrism, that they receive from you the virtues against the efforts of the malice of the devil, that all those that will take them on them remain safe, that do not have to fear any danger; that the wickedness of men is not harmful to them, and deigned to be their strength and their consolation.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, that you are the innocent Lamb, priest and victim; You that the prophets have called the Vineyard and the Cornerstone, you who have redeemed in your blood and this blood has marked our hearts and our foreheads, so that the enemy, passing close to our homes, we will seize with his fury. You who are the Lamb without spot, whose immolation is continuous; the Paschal Lamb now, under the species of Sacrament, the remedy and the salvation of our souls; that you lead us through the evil of this century to the resurrection and the glory of eternity; deign to bless, sanctify and consecrate these lambs without blemish, that in your honor we have formed beeswax and imbued with holy water, balm and the sacred chrism, honoring them in your divine conception that was the effect of the divine virtuesDefend those who will take them on them from the flames, by lightning, storm, from all adversity; liberated by their mothers who are in labor, as you have seen yours, when you gave birth; and in the same manner that you saved Susanna from the false accusation, the Blessed Virgin and Martyr Thecla from the stake and Peter from the shackles of captivity, deign to deliver us from the dangers of this world and that we do deserve to live with you forever. " 

Source: Guéranger, The Liturgical Year

1 comment:

  1. "If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change."

    - Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, 1641