AGNUS DEI, the figure of a lamb bearing a cross, symboliz ing the Saviour as the "Lamb of God." The name is especially given in the Roman Church to waxen discs impressed with this _ figure and blessed by the pope. When first mentioned (c. 82o) they were made of the remnants of the preceding year's paschal candle. In modern times they are blessed on Easter Wednesday and distributed on the following Saturday, only in the first year of each pontificate and every seventh year after.
Agnus Dei is also the name for the invocation (based on John i. 29) Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, which appears to have been introduced into the Mass by Pope Sergius I. (687-701). It is there repeated thrice (the third time with done nobis pacem for miserere nobis) between the Lord's Prayer and the communion ; it is also appended to many of the litanies. The legality of its use in English, under certain conditions, in the Anglican communion service was upheld by the judgment in the Lincoln case (189o).
For the various ceremonies in the blessing of the Agnus Dei, see A. Vacant, Dict. de Theologie (cols. 605-613).