The lost sacramental of Angus Dei


With the second Sundays reference to the Lamb of God it seems to be an ideal time to mention an ancient Church sacramental, the Angus Dei. The name “Agnus Dei”, Latin for Lamb of God, was given to special discs of wax impressed with the figure of a lamb which were blessed by the reigning Pope on the first year of their pontificate and every seven years thereafter. On the rounded impressed disks the lamb usually bears a cross or flag, while figures of saints or the name and arms of the Pope are often impressed on the reverse.

Like the paschal candle, the wax typifies the virgin flesh of Christ, the cross associated with the lamb suggests the idea of a victim offered in sacrifice. Just as the sprinkled blood of the paschal lamb protected each household at Egypt before the Exodus, the purpose of these Angus Dei medallions is to protect those who wear or possess them from all malevolent influences.

This sacramental begins to enter Church accounts in the sixth century, and becomes common by the middle ninth century. Traditionally on Holy Saturday the Pope prepares wax from the previous year’s paschal candles by adding both chrism and balsam to the wax. The tradition of the Angus Dei ended with Pope Paul VI around 1964-1971.

A Prayer recited by those who possess an Angus Dei:

Jesus, my Savior, true Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, by Thine infinite mercy, I beseech Thee to pardon my iniquities. By Thy sacred Passion, I beseech Thee preserve me this day from sin and shield me from all evil. To Thine honor and glory I carry about with me this blessed Agnus Dei as a protection to my soul and body, and as an incentive to practice the virtues which Thou hast inculcated, especially meekness, humility, purity and charity. In memory of that sacrifice of love which Thou didst offer for me and all mankind on Calvary, I consecrate my whole being to Thee. Thou didst die on the cross for love of me; let me die to self for love of Thee! Keep me in Thy love and Thy grace to the end of my life, that I may bless Thee forever with the Saints to heaven. Amen


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