|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. Early on, they were blessed
distributed by Popes in the first year of their pontificates, and then
every 7 years thereafter, on Holy Saturday -- later on the Wednesday
after Easter. After the "Agnus Dei" at
the Mass of the day, the Pope would place a packet of them into the
mitres of the Bishops present, who would then distribute them
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 safe.
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 death.
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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