From a reader:
It seems that recently our parish, at the direction of or with the consent of our priest has changed the wording of the Agnus Dei.
Apparently, saying “Lamb of God” three times is boring and silly so now we are to address the second stanza to the “Bread of Life” and the third to “Jesus, Prince of Peace”. I fully recognize that Christ is clearly and fully addressed as any of these three titles, but isn’t the Agnus Dei the Lamb of God and only the Lamb of God? Furthermore, I was taught years ago that the reason for the threefold recitation of Lamb of God was to indicate Christ’s perfection as the sacrifical lamb without blemish. No one else seems bothered by this, but I am just irked by what seems to me to be unnecessary tinkering with a beautiful part of the Mass. So, Father Z., am I out of line, or is this unnecessary at best or even improper? Thank you for your guidance and perspective.
Not everything that seems silly in the Ordinary Form, or Novus Ordo is illicit.
A USCCB document (not having a recognitio from the Holy See) suggests that during the singing of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) additional “titles” can be interjected while the “fraction rite” is going on. That is, as long as the priest and sacred ministers are arranging and preparing the Hosts for distribution, these additional Christological titles can be interpolated into the singing of the “Lamb of God”, provided that the first and last thing sung is always the “Lamb of God”, the final ending “grant us peace”. I think, however, that is to be done in addition to singing the first two verses as is, not instead of. If they are not singing the first and, at the end, the final verse as written, they may be straying from the rubrics. Again… this suggestion of the USCCB document, does not seem to have the official approval of the Holy See. Therefore, it seems not to be entirely licit to do this.
The 2000 GIRM 83 says: “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. [NB:] 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).”
In the combox, below, a commentator points out that GIRM 83 says that the text of the Agnus Dei itself may be repeated. GIRM says nothing about adding additional titles.
My own view is that silence is a good thing during Holy Mass. When you are finished singing the actual text of the Agnus Dei, why not just be quite instead of vamping till ready?
“To vamp”, of course, is the verb used by musicians to describe repeating a phrase over and over again to fill time until moving on. Think of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.
This Agnus Dei thing is sort of a liberal liturgist’s … is sort of a liberal liturgist’s … is sort of a liberal liturgist’s Take Five.
Of course in the Roman liturgy we have always been able to extend a musical moment during Holy Mass when we use Gregorian chant simply by adding psalm verses, or looping back to the antiphon or parts of the antiphon.
The Kyrie and other parts of Mass were often sung with “tropes”. Here is an example of a troped Kyrie. You can hear the interjected verses.
The Agnus Dei was text that was sometimes troped.
Hmmmm …. Dave Brubeck seems to have gotten it liturgically right after all, and that “troped Lamb of God” you are hearing actually has a bit of a pedigree in the history of Church music.
The drawback is. of course, that the interjected titles for the Lamb of God could get pretty silly, couldn’t they. Imagine how a liturgy committee could go to the zoo with that opportunity.
Best to avoid that. Silence is golden.