Catholic Activity: Ad regias Agni dapes (At the Lamb's High Feast)
This seventh century hymn is known as an Ambrosian hymn. So named because Ambrosian hymns were formerly supposed to have been written by St. Ambrose, or because they imitate the stanzaic form, the style, meter, and austere objectiveness of the genuine hymns of the Saint. It is now known for certain that many hymns formerly thought to be his are the compositions of unknown writers. These hymns are uniformly written in Iambic dimeter. The term Ambrosian implies no ascription of authorship, but merely a poetical form.
In this hymn there is a reference to the ancient custom of administering to catechumens the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Originally there was no Mass on Holy Saturday proper. The long but beautiful ceremonies began Saturday evening and lasted throughout the night. The Litany and Mass were sung towards morning. During Mass the neophytes, vested in beautiful white robes, were admitted for the first time to the "banquet of the Lamb," i.e., to the Eucharistic table. The white garments were worn during the week following Easter, and on Low Sunday the newly baptized appeared for the first time without their white robes.
At the Lamb's high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from His pierced side.
Praise we Him whose love divine
Gives the guests His Blood for wine,
Gives His Body for the feast,
Love the victim, love the priest.
Where the Paschal blood poured,
Death's dark Angel sheathes his sword;
Israel's hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Christ, the Lamb whose Blood was shed,
Paschal victim, Paschal bread;
With sincerity and love
Eat we manna from above.
Mighty Victim from the sky,
Powers of hell beneath Thee lie;
Death is conquered in the fight;
Thou hast brought us life and light.
Now Thy banner Thou dost wave;
Vanquished Satan and the grave;
Angels join His praise to tell—
See o'erthrown the prince of hell.
Paschal triumph, Paschal joy,
Only sin can this destroy;
From the death of sin set free,
Souls re-born, dear Lord, in Thee,
Hymns of glory, songs of praise,
Father, unto Thee we raise;
Risen Lord, all praise to Thee,
Ever with the Spirit be.
Activity Source: Hymns of the Breviary and Missal by Matthew Britt, Benziger Brothers, 1922