“Lamb of God…” – “Son of God…” – NOT

Pray Tell  reader Jeane Marie Miles writes with the latest information on the legality of troping the Lamb of God – that is, using other Christological invocations to extend the “Lamb of God” as needed to cover the liturgical action of the Fraction Rite. The  worship office in her diocese, Kansas City-St. Joseph, just received an email reply from the USCCB on the topic. 

The USCCB is aware that there is a discrepancy between the instructions in Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship and instructions in the new Roman Missal on this subject. STL says at 188:

The supplicatory chant Agnus Dei accompanies the Fraction Rite. It is, “as a rule, sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; or it is, at least, recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the fraction and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has reached its conclusion, the last time ending with the words dona nobis pacem (grant us peace).” [GIRM 83] When the Agnus Dei is sung repeatedly as a litany, Christological invocations with other texts may be used. In this case, the first and final invocations are always Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says at 83:

The supplication Agnus Dei, is, as a rule, sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; or it is, at least, recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the fraction and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has reached its conclusion, the last time ending with the words dona nobis pacem (grant us peace).

The GIRM doesn’t say anything, yay or nay, about troping, which is now being interpreted to mean GIRM does not permit it.

According the USCCB official, because the new Missal is the more important document, it trumps the instructions in the USCCB document Sing to the Lord.  The USCCB will therefore have to re-write their regulations on this subject and/or revise Sing to the Lord.

Bottom line: no text other than “Lamb of God” may be used to accompany the Fraction Rite; however, that invocation may be sung more three times, if necessary, to accompany the liturgical action.


  1. How long have we been adding additional tropes? Ah well, trash that “organic development”. Lord, have mercy.

    1. Sean, you don’t seem to understand: “organic development good; liturgical abuse bad.” So even though it might have looked like an organic development — presto! change-o! — it turns out to be a liturgical abuse.

      1. How long has this practice been forbidden? At least since 1975, when the CDW gave the following reply:

        QUERY: May the singing of “Shalom” replace the singing of the “Agnus Dei”?

        REPLY: No. The Ordinary of the Mass in all its parts must be followed as it appears in the Missal. Some slight adaptation is countenanced in the “Directory for Masses with Children” no. 31. What is established for children, however, is not transferable to other assemblies.

      2. Samuel,

        I made the point in an earlier post was that every organic development begins as a liturgical abuse. This was a perhaps provocative way of making the point that if one takes the history of the liturgy seriously as telling us something about how we think about liturgy now, then citing a particular rule or piece of legislation is not really the end of the story. If no one ever broke the rules, then presumably we’d all still be reclining around a table and enjoying our dinner before sharing in the cup of blessing. While current and past legislation is relevant, it should not keep us from asking why a particular practice ought to be allowed or forbidden.

        In this specific instance, is there a reason why the troped Agnus Dei should be forbidden other than this or that CDW ruling? Is there are reason why it should be done? I can think of at least one practical argument in its favor (i.e. in cases where the Agnus Dei needs to be repeated more than three times to cover the action of the fraction rite, the return to “Agnus Dei” signals the congregation that the conclusion will be “dona nobis pacem”). Are their practical or theological arguments against? Simply citing the legislation, however, becomes a way of short-circuiting the need to make arguments.

      3. I made the point in an earlier post was that every organic development begins as a liturgical abuse.

        This actually isn’t true. Customs can develop praeter legem as well as contra legem.

        Are their practical or theological arguments against? Simply citing the legislation, however, becomes a way of short-circuiting the need to make arguments.

        Not really, it’s more a way of having a different argument. In this case, since Sancrosanctum Concilium forbids the modification of the texts of the Mass by priests and a fortiori by choir directors and composers, it’s fair to say that this has always been an abuse since its modern reintroduction (troping having been common, of course in the medieval liturgy). So it’s not “presto! change-o!” an abuse.

        As for whether it would be a good idea to allow people to trope the Agnus Dei, I don’t particularly care to participate in that argument. The idea of organic development doesn’t mean that every part of the liturgy is now up for grabs for contra legem renovation.

      4. Fritz

        I guess I would venture that:

        1. There are other ways to signal a final invocation; it’s not necessary.
        2. The kind of troping that has been used in the past 30 years is not the way the AD was generally troped in the Middle Ages, as best I can tell; rather, the troping was the middle section (Agnus Dei, who X, have mercy on us).
        3. It’s not news that the issue of troping the AD was an issue of legal contention – it’s been a regular subject of commentary for many years, so this is not an issue of a uncontroversial custom that has been the subject of a bolt entirely out of the blue from Zeus, as it were.

        I just wish proponents of troping (I am not talking about you, Fritz, but more generically about AD troping flamefests I’ve witnessed many times in the past) would be more forthcoming about admitting its squishy authority. I personally count this practice as one of those half-baked ideas that I am not persuaded by. On the other hand, it doesn’t infuriate me, either. What I find more objectionable is the strain on the part of some to find legal loopholes to thread to justify it, which kinda defeats the whole anti-legalistic argument (as is often the case, an objection against legalism can mask an inverted legalism, so it really boils down to choosing among legalisms).

      5. Customs can develop praeter legem as well as contra legem.
        True. But surely at least some of what is now judged to be “organic development” was at one point contra legem.

        As for whether it would be a good idea to allow people to trope the Agnus Dei, I don’t particularly care to participate in that argument.

        That’s good to know. I won’t pursue the matter.

        I will say that in general I am more interested in reasons than in rules since, as St. Thomas said, you can tell people the right answer but unless you can get them to see why it is the right answer you have really taught them nothing and leave them with an empty head.

  2. To even suggest that the faith of the church is not being properly expressed in the prayer of the church when supplications akin to “bread of life” are used to enrich the extension of the chant through the conclusion of the breaking of the bread is beyond absurd. I trust that no one shall be surprised when this interpretation is overlooked.

  3. But. guys. per the hermeneutic of reform with continuity…….chanting over and over is continuity but dropping all added tropes is reform (even if many of these added tropes come straight from scripture).

    Don’t you get it – – refer to Animal Farm.

    1. Lots of ciborium to fill, someone forgets a ciborium, having to go to the tabernacle. I have to add a fourth or fifth about once a mont.

      1. The plural of ciborium is not ciborium, Sean, it’s ciboria (or, horror, ciboriums).

        How long is a mont? Is it a length of time experienced only by Allan McDonald’s “veri probati?”

        Can all these words be found in that gem of English literature, the Maryknoll Missal?

    2. In my large suburban “mega-parish” where there are routinely 1,000+ people, even a litany with a long “verse” requires at least 5, sometimes 6 times through. If we use a short setting, like the Latin chant as we did this past Lent, it will require even more (I think we hit 9 invocations at a very crowded Sunday Mass once!) The priest and deacon both apportion all of those hosts into 15-17 large plates…that doesn’t account for going to/from tabernacle (thankfully we recently abolished that practice on Sundays after 300 years of instruction ignored!) If this is to be accomplished with any modicum of reverence, it takes WAY more than 3 times.

      I suppose we could just sing “Lamb of God” (or “Agnus Dei”) all those times, and as Rita suggests below, there may be some “litanic” value to this.

      Practically, however, most (all?) of our current metrical or chanted settings make it difficult to know if it’s the last time through, meaning we’re doing “grant us peace” (“dona nobis pacem”)…so how will we indicate that to the assembly? Currently, most people know that if they hear “Lamb of God” again, the litany is finished. Would we prefer the cantor wave his hands? 🙂

      I think, unfortunately, this is another “ivory tower” decision, made by those who don’t have the practical experience of large assemblies receiving Communion on a regular basis…when you’re having a “semi-private Mass” in one’s own chapel, or you have 1,000 concelebrating priests to each hold a plate of hosts during the entire Eucharistic Prayer to distribute in the piazza, this isn’t an issue…

      1. It’s rather simple: either a longer pause before the final invocation, or, if there is accompaniment, a shift in the sound of the cadence.

      2. If this is to be accomplished with any modicum of reverence, it takes WAY more than 3 times.

        I suppose we could just sing “Lamb of God” (or “Agnus Dei”) all those times, and as Rita suggests below, there may be some “litanic” value to this.

        You could also sing polyphonic settings. Some of them are long enough to cover whatever you could possibly need to do at the Agnus Dei.

    3. In our parish we use unleavened bread made by a parishioner, and the fraction rite always takes more than three repetitions, even though we cheat and break some of the bread beforehand.

      1. we cheat and break some of the bread beforehand

        Never fear, Fritz. For many Papal liturgies (including World Youth Day in Sydney), they consecrate most of the people’s hosts at a Mass celebrated quietly the day before!

        It’s taking a while for Pius XII’s “hosts should be consecrated at the same Mass” to sink in.

  4. Three questions. 1) Since the GIRM does not forbid the practice of employing other christological tropes for the Agnus Dei, why must one assume that the practice is contra legem rather than praeter legem? 2) What might history tell us in the light of the tropes created in the medieval period to adorn Roman Rite texts, including the Agnus Dei (see the Corpus Troporum project)? 3) What, then, of the musical settings of the Agnus Dei employing other optional tropes ALREADY APPROVED for publication by the secretariat of the Commitee for Divine Worship of the USCCB?

    1. Good questions to which I would add: who in the USCCB responded to Kansas City with this conclusion and why?

    2. Since the GIRM does not forbid the practice of employing other christological tropes for the Agnus Dei, why must one assume that the practice is contra legem rather than praeter legem?

      Because changing the words of the ordinary of the Mass is forbidden, except where expressly permitted. (See Sacrosanctum Concilium and the CDW reply from 1975 I quoted above at 9:48 AM)

  5. Where can I find the instruction which covers the proper ritual for dealing with an unruly member or two of the congregation who sings the supplication – Lamb of God?

  6. Eileen: I think you will find that clear instructions come with each Remington 870 12-gauge. Basically, just load, rack, and fire.

    All: I can’t picture many music or liturgy directors taking this new restriction very seriously, particularly since the practice of adding tropes has been going on for quite a while, and has been very successful.

    It is ironic, the Lamb of God is the only part of the ordinary that was untouched, but they have found another way to screw it up!

    1. Actually, the LOG was changed – to second person vocative, old usage. “who take away”

  7. Jim: Yikes! I was just thinking that the invocation might be sung a few more times, if necessary, to accompany the liturgical action of escorting them out of the church. But couldn’t we just excommunicate them?! No reason to overreact.

  8. Dear, oh dear. As a non liturgist I fear we will end up with more rules, regulations and rubrics than the Pharisees of old. I fear we have lost touch with why we celebrate liturgy and are totally distracted by ritualism and legalism.

    1. @George Lynch – comment #28:
      I can’t remember the last time I was distracted by ritualism, but I can remember being distracted by a dancing nun in leotards bringing up the Gifts at the Offertory.

  9. There had been some discussion of that about fifty years ago, George. But, alas, to no avail.

  10. I actually think it is better to stay with the one text because of its Johannine background, and have always been puzzled by the need / desire to vary the invocations even when the fraction takes a long time. (I find repetition centering, like the Jesus prayer.) But, as it was permitted, ok, fine.

    What bugs me about things like this is that it ought to have been figured out years ago. Why are we rearranging this now? Why has it taken 8-9 years (from when MR3 came out) to “discern” that this is what we “really” ought to be doing? How did this provision in Sing to the Lord get past everybody who reviewed it, without this obvious point being raised? I don’t get it. It seems arbitrary.

    1. Rita;

      Wow… we agree on something! My impression was that it WAS figured out years ago… the GIRM instruction dates from 1970 (’72?). There have been numerous statements as I recall going back into the early 1990’s that this was an errant practice and that the instruction in the GIRM did not permit it.

      Why would “Rome” or whoever feel it necessary to make a statement forbidding something which is already not permitted? The Quaeritur submitted to the USCCB doesn’t seem to be a new law or ruling…simply a statement of what the law is. The statement in SttL was widely noted as being in conflict with the GIRM in 2006 when it as released. It was carried over from Music in Catholic Worship which also was in conflict with the GIRM.

      In response to some posts here… there are precious few circumstances in ecclesial law where the ABSENCE of a specific instance of a more general principle would suggest that it is permitted. For instance, it doesn’t say that you CAN’T substitute a completely different text for the Lamb of God either… but there is a general principle that no texts in the Missal can be altered. The more general principle applies unless specific exemptions are enumerated.

    2. Jeffrey, I too am impressed by our agreement! Where is Ceile De now? (He agreed with me two or three times and always prefaced it by “I can’t believe it!”) In fact, I am going to savor the moment, and hope for many happy returns. 🙂

  11. Amen to the questions Mike Joncas raises in #7… how will “they” answer these questions?

    In terms of pastoral practice… are diocesan liturgy offices, bishops and other “liturgical policemen” really going to check up on parishes, to make sure, using this example, we are not adding Christological tropes for the LOG? And if they really do not have “a life,” and choose to go after things such as this, where does this leave us? Puh-lease!

    1. Does this mean music directors as well as priests can do whatever they want, because no one will be checking up on us? Isn’t it our responsibility as employees and servants of the universal Church to do what the documents instruct us to do? Otherwise, we’d be bordering on congregationalism, which is contrary to the entire foundation of our Church.

      1. The old Roman Canon rubrics were so finicky that they gave you hundreds of ways of committing Mortal Sin. Now all you need fear is “getting caught” by the temple police.

    2. David,

      So are you suggesting that it’s okay to disregard liturgical norms as long as you don’t get caught? Or is that what is meant by “pastoral practice”?

  12. I don’t know if adding new tropes to the Agnus Dei should be outlawed, but it’s not a practice I care for since I like to participate in the liturgy by singing the Mass ordinary. I’ve stumbled over the words to the Agnus Dei many times because I wasn’t expecting some other invocation to be substituted and ended up just giving up and being an active listener to the cantor/choir instead.

    1. Seriously? The cantor/choir leading the first part (two or three words) causes you to give up on the rest of the piece? Good grief. What happens when the choir intones the Alleluia? Or sings portions (or all of!) the Glory to God?

      1. Seriously – I’ve seen lots of people clam up when they end up not knowing it. When you get used to singing the whole thing, it can be annoying when they change the words on you. I’ll sometimes sing the “refrain” of “have mercy on us” if I already know it’ll be an annoying changed-word setting.

        I don’t mind choral setting of the Mass, or when the Gloria is turned into a hymn with a refrain since it is so common, but changing the Agnus Dei in a setting that seems to be made for congregational singing is sort of like changing the response to the Responsorial psalm each time it is sung after a psalm verse.

        Why is is so important to change the words? It’s not like it actually encourages people to sing.

    2. Jack…
      It hasn’t been “outlawed”…it was simply never permitted. Although perhaps a subtle distinction, it’s an important one. Sttl did not “permit” the practice…it had no authority to do so. It was simply in error and that conflict has been noted and will be corrected in a future version.

  13. This is, after all, only the opinion of one USCCB official. Perhaps that official is not aware, as in Mike Joncas’s third point, that their office has already approved settings which include tropes.

    And Mike is certainly right in his first point that this interpretation of GIRM is only one possibility.

    There has been extensive correspondence on a UK forum about tropes in the Lamb of God, which were admitted as a possibility by the England and Wales Conference (along with the ICET text of “Jesus, Lamb of God”, as long as that text was sung) as long ago as 1971. That legislation is still currently in force.

    In the US, tropes have been in use since the days of David Clark Isele and probably even earlier. That is well on the way to establishing a custom in the eyes of canon law.

  14. What’s wrong with a few minutes of silence if the fractionation (First time I heard that word applied, learned something new here!) takes longer than 3 verses of the Agnus Dei? It’s not radio. A few minutes of “dead air” isn’t a catastrophe but rather is a natural moment for silent prayer.

    1. In our parish (large) with perhaps 2000-2500 in attendance at Mass, the preparation of all the ciboria and the transfer of implements from the Tabernacle takes some time. I simply wait until the Priest stands at the altar and breaks the large host to begin the Agnus Dei (we use one of the Gregorian settings). There is often several minutes of silence after the sign of peace before this begins. I somehow can’t imagine repeating the Agnus Dei for all that time.

      1. I think a parish so large that Mass attendance is 2000-2500 has bigger problems than stretching the Agnus Dei! Maybe I’ve been spoiled by small town life, but that number of people gathered into a single parish would seem to overwhelm any sense of community.

  15. I echo Rita in that this should have been something resolved years ago. I know there were proposals to have it included in Sing to the Lord, but that clearly didn’t take. One thing to keep in mind is that Sing to Lord has only the status of non-binding guidelines because the document didn’t go to Rome. It’s likely that articles such as #188 would have been amended if it had.

    For my part, I’ve always viewed GIRM 366 (“It is not permitted to substitute other chants for those found in the Order of Mass, such as at the Agnus Dei”) effectively to mean that troping and the like is not envisioned. Another question I’ve heard voiced is: when did the Agnus Dei become considered a litany, rather than a set threefold formula?

    1. Brian…

      I suspect that the identification of the Agnus Dei as a Litany began with Music in Catholic Worship where it is so identified., specifically for the purpose of promoting the troped invocations. It is not a litany and has never been so considered historically. The Threefold (Trinitarian) form has been long established historically.

      1. The origins of Agnus Dei seem to be by way of extraction from the Latin and Ambrosian Rite Gloria in excelsis, where we find it already troped: Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram; Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis. Its threefold form seems to be derived from this as well, and despite that triple repetition, it is wholly Christological (not Trinitarian) in content.

        Considering its deployment at the end of various litanies, the oldest being the the early-medieval Major Litany of the Saints (the “Old Roman” processional litany), I suspect that its identification with the Litany form is much older than MCW.

  16. The USCCB’s comment supports the current pope’s sentiments that we need to recover the vertical dimension of the liturgy. He believes it has been seriously downplayed since the Council. Thus the purging from the new Missal of most of the “in these or similar words” provisions. He believes such opportunities for creativity in the liturgy have led to too much emphasis on the horizontal dimension, thus too much focus on the presider and the assembly. Therefore no troping. The pope lives in a different world than I, but I’m pretty certain we are seeing his piety and his strategy unfolding.

  17. In his first question, Michael Joncas identifies the struggle on this issue as including two different interpretations of law in general, and canon law in particular. On the one hand, there is the traditional (European) interpretation that what is not expressly forbidden is allowed, and on the other there is the Anglo/American interpretation that what is not expressly permitted is forbidden. In the past, the usual approach to interpreting canon and liturgical law has been the first version; the second approach seems to be taking hold in many quarters these days.

    1. Perhaps those who wish the latter interpretation are fearful that the tropes (as they did in the Middle Ages i.e. Quem Queritis) might develop into cycle plays. Then they would have to deal with that “innovation/abuse”
      The trope examples held up by Michael Joncas are beautiful poetry, bringing Biblical and theological truths into the liturgy and I prefer to interpret (according to Gordon’s post) in the former way!

  18. Since, in the Preface conclusion that is used with (is it?) 10 prefaces throughout the entire Easter Season, “profusis” (overflowing) is mistranslated as the ridiculous “overcome” (as in toxic fumes and smelling salts, taking to the couch with the vapors, etc) and “etiam” – here meaning “also” is mistranslated as “EVEN the heavenly Powers rejoice,” as if we thought they wouldn’t – will priests have to use such mistranslated phrases that make no logical sense (and, indeed, sound ridiculous), just because the Congregation for the Doctrine of Worship, though informed of Vox Clara’s errors, was too lazy, incompetent, or arrogant to change the mistakes for the good of the Church and the glory of God? And, indeed, fired the people who dared point out these errors?

  19. I’ve been chewing on this since its posting. I get what’s being said, but I have to wonder if a bit of nuance couldn’t have been introduced for reasons of pastoral sensitivity or plain old sensibility. There are two practices of troping the Agnus Dei that I’ve observed: the first, most common, is to change up the title in the invocation in litanic form — Lamb of God, Living Bread, Saving Cup, Son of God, Risen Lord, etc. The second, less common, is to change both the title and the qui-clause — Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world; Son of God, whose presence is our food and drink, etc.

    I like both, but then, in The Episcopal Church, there’s more room for variation with the “Fraction Anthem,” and a variety of texts may be used at the breaking of the bread. But I can see an argument against the latter practice of troping on the qui-clause; I fail to see the problem with the former.

    I am most curious, however, as to how modern composers came upon troping the qui-clause. I’m hoping one or more of them who reads this blog might weigh in.

  20. “fractionation” All I can say is good grief. Do we not break bread anymore? Has this discussion anything to do with what actually happens in most parish churches.

  21. Re. comment 47 above:

    I would endorse what your correspondent writes about the Paschaltide Preface ending.

    “Overwhelmed” is a complete misreading of “profusis paschalibus gaudiis.” It denotes a subjective condition, whereas the joys of Easter are objectively poured out in abundance (profusis).

    I would also support his comment on the apparent reluctance of the Angelic powers to rejoice (the word “even” for “sed et” in the Latin). In fact it means “and also …”.

    A serious error has occurred here. This text will be used at almost every Mass throughout the sacred Paschal Season. It is incorrect, misleading and, frankly, comical. What on earth did the translators/editors think they were doing?

    Alan Griffiths.

  22. And to further the discussion, no matter which side you stand on, let’s be clear about troping vs. alternate invocations. I believe the first published setting in the US to include alternate invocations for the Lamb of God was David Clark Isele’s Holy Cross Mass, GIA, 1979. (Composers and publishers: correct me if I am wrong.) Ironically, this well know setting was included as the alternate Agnus setting in the choral edition. I understand troping to be elaborations upon a theme: Lamb of God, come down from heaven as the living bread, you take away…..Lamb of God, given for the life of the world, you take away….For it what it’s worth, the practice outlined in Liturgical Music Today 20 “one should not hesitate to add tropes” was misinterpreted to mean one should substitute invocations (bread of life.)

    And back to Fr. Joncas’ excellent points. The USCCB /BCL now CDW historically seems to have carefully walked the line between what they say and what they approve. Look at the texts in hymnals that appear as memorial acclamations. (When we eat this bread of life, when we drink this saving cup….. or We remembner how you loved us….) These masses and hymnals have all been sent to Washington DC for approval from the BCL/CDW. (And let’s not forget their wise comments on the Holy Thursday mandatum on the USCCB website.)

    If the alternate invocations do disappear, whether by enforcement or pastoral practice, composers will be given the wonderful opportunity to create new musical settings. 30+ years of A1 A1 A2 settings have served us well; how nice it will be to encounter settings with a musical form of A B (C D E) A.

    1. Thank you, Michael. See my point about DCI at #42 above. I did not have my reference books to hand when I wrote it. That makes modern troping 32 years old, two more than the 30 required by canon law.

      1. 30 years is not the only requirement for a custom. There are other requirements.

  23. Re. my comment above. “Overwhelmed” is my mistake. The approved translation has “overcome.” Sorry. My point stands, though.

    Alan Griffiths.

    1. Indeed, Canon Griffiths’ point more than stands: overcome is so wrong precisely because it means overwhelmed, and thus the subjective/objective mistake, etc. Ditto “etiam.”

      If this were a once-a-year gaffe – like Vox Clara’s ridiculous/comical “to the immensity of your majesty” (Preface of Christ the King), it would be less problematic if no less offensive.

      But like the botched translation of the Latin constructions in the “Per ipsum” of the Eucharistic Prayers (what a disaster that became in the move from 2008 to Pell-Moroney-Ward-ville!), this absurdity is going to be heard for the full 50 days of Eastertide.

      Come on, your Eminences and Excellencies: we know read this blog: don’t any of you dare to speak up? On here? To CDW? It’s your duty, to be quite frank, and we’d love to see you do that duty. Bad enough that the Congregation ignores the constructive assistance of ICEL’s “Areas of Difficulty.” The books aren’t printed and bound yet: you can still fix this Easter Prefaces mess. Fix the Per ipsum, too, while you’re at it!

      1. Your Eminences and Excellencies!

        Ignore this person!

        Leave everything as it is!

        Do not make any changes to the Easter prefaces.

        Do not fix the Per ipsum.

        Leave the Preface of Christ the King as it is.

        In Eucharistic Prayer III, after the marathon introductory sentence no one understands (but it’s not addressed to us anyway), let us “be” not “stand” in God’s presence.

        Should any of your illustrious number be considering acting upon ICEL’s “Areas of Difficulty” constrain them mercifully, that I might live to see, at least once, a priest all decked out in pink on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, bearing a serene and kindly gaze, chanting the words “disordered affections” of Lenten Preface II!

        I beg Your Eminences and Excellencies: give me SOMETHING to go to church for during the life of the coming Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal!

  24. Let’s talk actual prayer for a moment. How about 15 straight minutes of “Lamb of God” sung by the teen choir at NCYC during the UNENDING fraction at the 2008 conference? The huge assembly started mumbling, then half singing.

    Just doesn’t work. Rigidity at the expense of the people of God at prayer.

    As usual, I particularly value Michael Joncas’ scholarly perspective.

  25. I thought the following from Gunilla Iversen’s Laus angelica: Poetry in the Medieval Mass (Medieval Church Studies 5, Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2010) might be of interest to our discussion. I will offer one trope per entry.

    “To study a few of the tropes [for the Agnus Dei], let us return to Moissac and the Third Mass of Christmas. As in most of the West Frankish repertories, we find an introductory trope preceding the liturgical chant, intended to prepare the souls of the participants to receive the words of the chant into their hearts. The following verses are in the form of invocations that include various terms for the Lamb, answered by the prayer ‘miserere nobis’….

    Hic est verus Agnus, de quo Iohannes exclamavit dicens:
    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, solus invisibilis Rex,
    miserere nobis.

    Rex regum, gaudium angelorum, Christe,
    miserere nobis.

    The true Lamb is here, about whom John cried out, saying:
    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

    You, who sit at the right hand of the Father, the sole invisible King,
    Have mercy on us.

    King of kings, joy of the angels, O Christ,
    Have mercy on us….

    [from BnF, MS n.a. lat. 1871, fol 55v]

  26. In the troper-proser of St Evroult in Brittany we find…the following trope in hexameter verse:

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Lux lucis verbumque Patris virtusque perennis,
    miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccato mundi,
    Verus sanctorum splendo nosterque Redemptor,
    miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Nostra salus, pax vera, Deus, altissima virtus
    dona nobis pacem.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Light from light and Word of the Father and everlasting Power,
    have mercy on us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    True splendor of the saints and our Redeemer,
    have mercy on us.

    O Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Our salvation, true peace, supreme virtue, O God,
    grant us peace.

    [from BNF, MS lat. 10508, fol. 127r]

  27. Also found in the troper from St Evroult is Fons indeficiens pietatis, in which the invocations to the Agnus Dei are supplemented with other epithets for the name of Christ:

    Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Fons indeficiens pietatis,
    miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Auctor summe bonus bonitatis,
    miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Pax eternal, dator caritatis,
    dona nobis pacem.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Unfailing wellspring of goodness,
    have mercy on us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Noble origin of supreme goodness,
    have mercy on us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Peace everlasting, bestower of love,
    grant us peace.

    [from BnF, MS lat. 10508, fol. 128v]

  28. Amongst Agnus Dei tropes, the Trinitarian theme is particularly emphasized in repertories of the north-west (England)….:
    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Summe Pater, de quo mundi principia constant,
    miserere nobis.

    Filius unigenitus, per quem Patris est pie velle,
    miserere nobis.

    Spiritus in quo par virtus sine fine refulgent,
    dona nobis pacem.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Most-high Father, from whom the origins of the world are established,
    have mercy on us.

    Only-begotten Son, through whom there is the Father’s good will,
    have mercy on us.

    Spirit, in whom the same excellence shines forth without end,
    grant us peace.

    [from BnF, MS lat. 10508, fol. 127r]

  29. Some trope verses make allusions to the moment of communion, when the Lamb of God is invoked as sacrifice, and when the host is explicitly the body and blood of Christ:

    Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Danielis prophetia quem predixit hunc Maria Virgo Deum genuit
    Miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei, qui tollis beccata mundi,
    Iam descendit ut mactetur plebs fidelis iocundetur. Ecce Christus sumitur.
    Miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Vitam confert Agnus ille cui canunt chori mille: Verum corpus sumite!
    Dona nobis pacem.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    Whom Daniel’s prophecy predicted, this God whom the Virgin Mary bore:
    Have mercy on us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
    Now he descends to be sacrificed, May the faithful people be joyful. Behold, Christ is received.
    Have mercy upon us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    This Lamb gives life,
    To him a thousand choirs sing:
    Receive the true body.
    Grant us peace.

    [from St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, cod. 382, p. 54]

  30. As in other genres, the Virgin Mary came to occupy an extremely important place in later tropes. The following trope is written in hexameters, all of which end with an invocation to the who who is the Son of Mary….:

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Christe, Theos agie, Sator orbis, nate Marie,
    Miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Unica spes venie, via vite, nate Marie,
    Miserere nobis.

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,
    Pacis primitie, patris hostia, nate Marie,
    Dona nobis pacem.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    O Christ, Holy God, Creator of the world, Son of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    O unique hope of pardon, way of life, Son of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
    First-fruits of peace, sacrifice of the Father, Son of Mary,
    Grant us peace.

    [from St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, cod 382, pp. 383-84]

  31. Thus, we have seen how the early tropes added to the Agnus Dei produce a prayer addressed to Christ in order to obtain his mercy. It is the sacrificed Christ who is invoked, but the authors also wished to invoke other images of Christ: the King enthroned in heavenly majesty, the joy of the angels, the light from light, and everlasting peace, and, in later tropes, the authors invoke the whole of the Trinity and Christ as the son of the Virgin Mary; in this way they reflect the theological ideas of their time. But despite all the various forms of he Agnus Dei and its tropes, the invocation to the Lamb of God preserves the character of sung prayer.” [pp. 222-233 passim].

  32. In the light of Iversen’s scholarship on the tropes associated with the Agnus Dei I suspect that Jeffrey Herbert’s comment at #44 would need to be re-visited.

    1. Excellent, and very helpful, Fr. Joncas. Thank you for enlarging the frame with these historical texts and examples.

    2. Thanks for these examples. I did not much doubt that there was historical precedent for such tropes, though I guess the question could be posed at to whether using them as a justification constitutes a form of antiquarianism that is sometimes criticized when employed by folks seeking to retain other, less mainstream “traditional” liturgical elements.

      At any rate, I am grateful for these examples. Indeed, I think I would find modern troping practices more agreeable if they adopted as elegant and substantial a format and content.

  33. The Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome published in 1980 Ferdinand Haberl,
    86 Tropi antiphonarum ad Introitum usui liturgico accomodati. The book trumpets the fact that, since the greater freedoms offered by the liturgical reform, there’s no reason not to use these treasures of tropes, laid out in this case (as the book title says) for interpolation into the Latin introit chant.

    Here it is at the Vatican website:


  34. At some point in history, Psalm 119 was used as a Fraction Prayer. With its dozens of verses, it could probably be enough for a World Youth Day setting as well.

    And I’ve forgotten who mentioned it, but it was a huge parish, but why are you bringing anything from the tabernacle at the fraction?

      1. Who is the “hominem” that he is “ading?”

        The fact is, the blog he’s referring to KNOWS the new translation made a bunch of mistakes but has stayed silent!

  35. I know that this is a “late” comment… but weren’t additional trophes used at the Masses with Pope Benedict here in the US? I seem to remember…

  36. I remember the first time I heard extra tropes sung as part of the Lamb of God during Mass at Notre Dame in the 1970’s….by David Clark Isele….his “Holy Cross Mass”…and the extra invocations helped me to grow in my personal Christology. Whatever helps faith should be retained, whatever hurts faith should be left aside.

  37. The report here is premature… I just spoke with the BCDW… as far as they are concerned, until we hear otherwise from Rome or the US Bishops rewrite it, SING TO THE LORD stands as policy for the US… so other Christological invocations remain permissible (at least for now)….

  38. Just happened upon this site and discussion…if the AD is considered a part of the Ordinary, and Sacrosanctum Conciliorum, a document FROM ROME says that no words of the Ordinary are permitted to be changed by clergy or laypeople, then how does the USCCB non-binding document Sing to the Lord in any way trump that? It looks to me like this thread is full of composers who have sour grapes that it’s now pointed out that they’ve engaged in a practice that was never allowed by the Holy See in the first place. Shall we change the Holy Holy to four “holy’s” and maybe a fifth “really holy” because we feel it makes that part of the Ordinary just a bit more holy? Just my 2 cents.

    1. Irene, I think your view is literalistic legalism unworthy of the Gospel of Christ. You should know that this is not the mindset or position of those who in Rome who issue liturgical documents. Roman liturgical officials have spoken positively of SttL
      And for all that, SC says that regulation of the liturgy belongs to the Holy See AND THE BISHOPS – i.e., the ones who issued SC. No priest or layperson may change on their own, according to SC, what the Holy See and Bishops have approved.
      It is simply an error to think that all authority in the RC Church is exclusively in Rome. That has never been true historically, and it still isn’t true.

      1. If this whole thread started because a Bishop in Kansas City said that their AD will not have the horizontal tropes or Christological invocations, then I think your argument and mine come to the same conclusion–it’s a rule given to the Diocese to follow by their Ordinary and looking for justification to bend or break them is still wrong.

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