Friday, 19 April 2019

Remembering an Easter Tradition: Agnus Dei

Sunday April 21st marks the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, commonly known as Easter. This holiday concludes Holy Week and is one of the most important times for Christians. People may partake in various traditions: they may attend mass, participate in an Easter egg hunt, and/or get together with loved ones for a meal.

Spanning from the 5th century to the 20th century, a very unique Easter ritual took place: the making of the Agnus Dei sacramental. The Agnus Dei, perhaps the oldest known sacramental of the Church, is a round or oval wax disc made from the wax of the previous year's Easter candles. These candles were collected, melted down, and impressed with a lamb on one side and a saint or the pope on the other. Popes would consecrate these discs on the first year of their pontificate and every seven years following. They would then distribute the discs, often to visiting bishops and Cardinals. With the Lamb of God embossed on them, these discs were seen as a symbol of Jesus' sacrifice.

We have three Agnus Dei in our collection, as well as several documents for the rite and usage for the consecration of Agnus Dei.

This statement was issued in 1862 and roughly translates to, "The Ritual Use of Forms that the Candles are Blessed and Consecrated by the Pope of Rome".

Rite and usage for the blessing and consecration of the 'Cereas Formas', commonly called Agnus Dei (a wax impression).
1862

John Joseph Lynch Fonds
L RC44.01
 

The Agnus Dei below are two copies of the same impression, consecrated by Pope Pius XI at an unknown date:

Relief of Victorious Lamb/Lamb of God

Special Collections - Artifacts
AF 233

Relief of Victorious Lamb/Lamb of God

Special Collections - Artifacts
AF 233

On the other side, a relief of the bust of St. Andrea:

Relief of bust of St. Andrea

Special Collections - Artifacts
AF 233

Relief of bust of St. Andrea

Special Collections - Artifacts
AF 233

The Agnus Dei below was consecrated by Pope Pius XII in 1935:

Relief of Victorious Lamb/Lamb of God
1935

Special Collections - Artifacts
AF234

On the other side, a relief of an unidentified bust:

Relief of an unidentified bust
1935

Special Collections - Artifacts
AF 234

The Agnus Dei practice was largely abandoned following the Second Vatican Council. The last pope to consecrate them was Pope Pius XII.

To read more on the history and significance of Agnus Dei, click here.

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