Lamb of God

NCR reports that the previously-granted permission for a common adaptation of the text of the fraction rite has now been withdrawn.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy on us.

It has been common in many US churches (can’t speak for elsewhere) to elaborate the Lamb of God litany that accompanies the breaking of the consecrated bread and its division into separate dishes for distribution with additional invocations that use a variety of titles for Jesus: Lamb of God, Bread of Life, Fire of Hope, Prince of Peace, and so on.
Frequently, in cases when the liturgical music was timed to accompany the liturgical action (and thus you couldn’t predict how many repetitions would be needed), the return to the initial title, Lamb of God, signaled the final repetition of the litany, which concludes with “grant us peace.” This practice has now been suppressed.

I am deeply saddened by this, because in my experience, the fraction rite when elaborated in this way was the moment of deepest communal reverence for the presence of the Lord in the sacrament and simultaneously for his passion and death symbolized by the breaking of the bread.

In other words, this was a high point of eucharistic piety. Now I am not naturally inclined towards eucharistic piety, so if I’m noticing it, it’s got to be significant. I remember one Sunday when I was sitting behind a family with three children who had been, shall we say, less than perfectly attentive and well behaved during mass: nevertheless, during the singing of this litany as all our attention was on the altar and the actions of breaking and pouring that were happening there, these children were as prayerfully attentive as anyone could wish.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy on us.

So it deeply saddens me that this adaptation which enhanced eucharistic piety should be suppressed in the service of strict adherence to the Latin text of the rite. Isn’t increased eucharistic piety one of the Catholic distinctives that the two most recent popes have desired to promote?

Some people read this as yet another sign of the increased control of the liturgy being exerted by the “central office” over against local adaptation. Some argue that the liturgical freedom of the past forty years is causally connected to the decline of membership and practice in the Catholic church, and so strict adherence and uniform practice will turn this trend around. Some are outraged that so much energy is being paid to details of the liturgy when the church faces so many significant issues, not the least of which is the continued scandal of sexually-abusive priests and their supervising bishops. I expect that some are pleased, and others are distressed, at the emphasis on sacrificial atonement and the de-emphasis of other aspects and interpretations of the eucharist.

I find it hard to care about any of that. Right now, I am just deeply saddened by the loss of a practice that deepened my eucharistic spirituality, and helped me prepare to receive communion.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world:
grant us peace.

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