||An Agnus Dei
(the name means, of course, "lamb of God," and is pronounced "ah-nyoos day-ee")
is a round or oval wax disk impressed, most often, with the figure of a lamb,
but sometimes with a flag, figure of a Saint, or the papal arms, etc. They
were blessed and distributed by Popes in the first year of their pontificates,
and then every 7 years thereafter, on Holy Saturday. After the "Agnus Dei"
at the Mass that day, the Pope would place a packet of them into the mitres
of the Bishops present, who would then distribute them themselves.
They are very ancient, being first mentioned ca. A.D. 820 -- possibly earlier
if the mention of blessing wax in by Pope Zosimus in the Liber
Pontificales in A.D. 418 refer to Agnus Dei -- and it is believed that
the first ones were made of leftover wax from the Paschal
candle mixed with chrism.
More recently, they'd be dipped in water mixed with chrism after being formed,
and then sewn into small pouches of various shapes to keep them clean and
The symbolism of the Agnus Dei is the same as that of the
Paschal Candle; the wax is the pure flesh
of Christ, and their protective qualities are like those of other blessed
objects, with the Pope's blessing mentioning specifically protection in combat,
and protection against tempests, lightning, fire and water; malice of demons
and of every adversity; pentilence, sickness, and a sudden and unprovided
Popes no longer bless and distribute Agnus Dei, what with the obvious
sophistication of "modern man" who, in his gnosticism, has no need for blessed
objects (if you don't understand my sarcasm about "modern man," I invite you to read
the history of the peaceful 20th century. If the two world wars, the wars
in Korea and Vietnam, the slaughter of the Sudanese and Rwandans, the Christian
Holocaust in the former Soviet Union, Tianneman Square, the Shoah,
the slaughter of the Cristeros in Spain and Mexico, the fall of the Twin
Towers, etc. don't convice you, then, perhaps a review of the Church's teachings
on original sin and man's fallen nature will. At any rate, any Agnus Dei
you come across (that is genuine) will date to before 1964, the year "modern
man" apparently came into being. You should keep it very safe.
Update: I've received an e-mail from a priest who was kind enough
to take the time to inform me that the Holy Father issued Agnus Dei sacramentals
during the Jubilee Year 2000. Wonderful!
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