Thursday, October 13, 2011

Feast of faith: Agnus Dei

When we call on the Lamb of
God, we call to mind his
self-sacrificing love, his blood
poured out for us, and we ask this
compassionate Lord for
mercy and peace. (Credit:
skepweaver.wordpress.com)
By Corinna Laughlin

After the sign of peace, the priest breaks the host into pieces, and prepares the patens, or plates, of hosts for the assembly. In the early church, "the breaking of the bread" was the name given to the entire Eucharistic liturgy. So central was this action to the meaning of the Christian life. For just as the one bread is broken and given to many people, the many are made one in receiving it.

During this ritual action, we sing an ancient litany, calling on Jesus as the "Lamb of God" — the words used by John the Baptist when he pointed to Jesus walking beside the Jordan River (John 1:29, 36). In calling Jesus "the Lamb of God," John was already pointing to the death that Jesus would die: in giving his life, Jesus would become the Paschal Lamb of the new covenant.

During the Mass, when we call on the Lamb of God, we call to mind his self-sacrificing love, his blood poured out for us, and we ask this compassionate Lord for mercy and peace.

Corinna Laughlin is pastoral assistant for liturgy at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Reach her at claughlin@stjames-cathedral.org.

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