AGNUS DEI

AGNUS DEI. According to the Liber pontificalis ed. Perovsky, II, 256, Pope Sergius I, a Syrian, introduced the singing of the Agnus Dei into the Roman Mass. In Eastern liturgies, from the 6th c., the fractio of the bread was considered a symbol of the passion and death of Christ. The liturgy of Western Syria preserves texts that were used during the fractio and which speak of the Lamb of God Brightman, Liturgies, I, 99, alluding to Rev 5:6 and Jn 1:29- 36. The singing of the Agnus Dei serves as a confractorium, i.e., as a song that accompanies the fractio. The Ordo Romanus I prescribes that the schola sing it while the bread is being broken Andrieu, Les Ordines Romani, 101; thus the Agnus Dei, with its subdued sacrificial tone, gave an Eastern dimension to the fractio. This probably led to an understanding of the commixtio, which follows the fractio, as a symbol of the resurrection Amalarius, Liber officialis, I, III, c. 33,2: ST 139, 365. In any case the Syrians, who practiced the commixtio from the 4th c., saw in it the symbol of the resurrection of Christ, and Theodore of Mopsuestia explains it as the union of the body and blood of Christ Hom. Cat. 16: ST 145, 533, 557- 563. Thus the fractio and the commixtio of the fermentum lit. leaven a fragment of the consecrated host sent to the titular churchs for use in their celebration of the Eucharist at the point of the commixtio in the Roman Mass, which originally had a different symbolism, assume a unified symbolism thanks to the Agnus Dei: the fractio indicates the death, the commixtio the resurrection. F. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, Oxford 1896; B. Capelle, Le rite de la fraction dans la messe romaine: RBen 53 1941 5-40; M. Andrieu, Les Ordines Romani du haut moyen- ge. 2. Les textes, Louvain 1948 Spicil. Sacrum Lovan., 23; J.P. De Jong, Le rite de la commixtion dans ses rapports avec les liturgies syriennes: Archiv f. katholisches Kirchenrecht 4 1956 245- 278; 5 1957 33-79; U. Perovsky ed., Liber Pontificalis, Rome 1978 Studia Gratiana, 22; N. Paxton, Breaking the Bread, in The Clergy Review 9 1982 327-332; G. Di Nola, Monumenta Eucharistica: La testimonianza dei Padri della Chiesa, vol. 2, Rome 1997, 53-55, 59-60; M. Metzger, The History of the Eucharistic Liturgy in Rome, in Handbook for Liturgical Studies, vol. 3, Collegeville 1999, 122-125.
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