I have a question about music in the Mass. Are we supposed to sing “verses” for the Agnus Dei rather than to repeat Lamb of God three times, or are both forms correct?
This question comes up from time to time. When I last studied the issue in November of 2005, I wrote: “No. 83 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal addresses the specific issue which you raise: “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).”
When the invocation Agnus Dei is repeated more than three times, it is meant to accompany the Liturgical action of the celebrant with a prayerful chant. Silence is necessary as part of the Liturgy, but there are other moments reserved for silence. From the indications set forth in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, it is not at all apparent that permission has been granted to add new words (King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Bread of Angels), no matter how beautiful and fitting they might seem.
Nevertheless, the version you mention is well known and I have not heard objections to it in the past. Still, my sense is the words “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” should be repeated just as they are until the rite has reached its conclusion and the people pray “grant us peace.”
And since I wrote that, I have seen nothing to change my opinion on the matter.
Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio. Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University. His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.