CNP Logo Home
Online Catalog
Musical Musings
Liturgical Planners
Submit Your Music
Contact Us
Company Description
CanticaNOVA Publications
Bookmark and Share

The Lamb of God Set Right

by USCCB Office of Divine Worship
with Commentary by Gary D. Penkala

The first part of this article is attributed to the Office of Divine Worship, a division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and appeared by way of a diocesan director of liturgy.

The Notice

- USCCB Office of Divine Worship

The Latin Church members of the USCCB approved Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship in November 2007 by a margin of 88% (only a simple majority was required). Originally intended to be presented as particular law (which would have required a two-thirds majority and subsequent confirmation by the Holy See), the text was ultimately presented as a set of non-binding guidelines for use in the dioceses of the United States. At the time the common practice in many parishes was to extend the singing of the Lamb of God, often required to accompany the Fraction Rite that included the pouring of the Precious Blood into chalices for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds, by the addition of additional Christological invocations. It was noted during the drafting of the text of Sing to the Lord, and in the modification and amendment process with the body of Bishops, that this had been a custom that was widely accepted in the United States, and was also acceptable practice in other languages, including the German Singmessen, which have been in long-standing use in German-language territories.

Over the past several years there has been discussion in the Committee on Divine Worship regarding this apparent discrepancy, and the policy of the Secretariat in regard to the approval of musical settings of the Order of Mass shifted in preparation for the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition last year. Composers of new musical settings of the parts of the Order of Mass from the Roman Missal were prohibited from including alternate texts for the Lamb of God. All new approved musical settings of the Order of Mass are, therefore, in conformity with this change.

Earlier this year, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, USCCB President, received a letter (Prot. n. 158/12/L) from Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, OP, then-Secretary of the Congregation [for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments] , regarding the practice of adding "tropes" or other Christological invocations to the Lamb of God. The Congregation noted that this practice is not in conformity with no. 130 of the Order of Mass, and requested that the USCCB make this information available to publishers and pastors. Cardinal Dolan responded that the matter would be addressed, in part through a correction to Sing to the Lord.

This alteration is effective immediately, and affects all existing and future musical settings of the Lamb of God.

The relevant paragraph now reads (new text in bold):

188. The supplicatory chant Agnus Dei accompanies the Fraction Rite. It 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)" (GIRM, no. 83). The Agnus Dei should not be prolonged unnecessarily (see GIRM, no. 83) nor may other texts be added to this chant.

In addition to this change in the text, the full text of Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship is undergoing an editorial review in light of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. The review will result in minor changes to vocabulary, capitalization, and quotes from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Mass.


- Gary D. Penkala

Allow me a few comments on the notice above.

  1. It's about time!
  2. Follow this time line carefully:
    • March 2002 — The Missale Romanum is promulgated in its original Latin form, along with the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. Both the Latin text and the rubrics of the General Instruction became effective in March 2002. The pertinent rubric reads: "This invocation [Lamb of God …] may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has been completed. The final time it concludes with the words grant us peace."
    • 2006 — The U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship discusses a new document, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, to replace both Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today.
    • 2007 — Sing to the Lord is issued, with the text: "When the Agnus Dei is sung repeatedly as a litany, Christological invocations with other texts (tropes) may be used."
    • 2012 — The USCCB rescinds the contradictory statement.
  3. In correcting the discrepancy between the U.S. bishops' document and the Roman Missal itself, why do the bishops try to excuse their mistake with the common, and even dangerous, justification that "Everyone was doing it"? If the bishops themselves aren't in tune with the idea that liturgy is handed to us from above [i.e. the Vatican], not created here below [i.e. the parishes], then what hope have we of ever seeing the Propers being sung, or of chant and polyphony being used over tawdry songs? Do they really think "ubiquitous use" is a true criterion for validity?
  4. Read this very carefully: "This alteration is effective immediately, and affects all existing and future musical settings of the Lamb of God." If you have Mass settings with "Jesus, Bread of Life," or "Prince of Peace," or "Ancient Cup," get out your Sharpies and strike-out the invalid tropes! They're not allowed anymore, even in existing musical settings.
  5. CanticaNOVA Publications has never published any settings of the Lamb of God with tropes.
CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388
Send website comments or questions to: