Friday, February 15, 2008

The Great Litany

Recently I was asked to join the "Episcopal Church Social Network" at a website created by The Reverend Steve Rice, Rector, St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, Georgia. Steve invited me to spread the word and invite others to join at . In his usual cleverness with turns of phrases, Steve calls this "The Facebook of Common Prayer" or words to that effect. If you want to see what I might call the lighter side of the Episcopal Church, sign on and take a look.

One of the questions on the sign-up page is "What is your favorite page of the Prayer Book?" Quickly I wrote 355, which the opening page for The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two. I'm thinking I might go back occasionally and change that page number, depending on my thoughts for that day. Today, I might have chosen page 148, which begins The Great Litany, even though that prayer goes on through page 155. This prayer is rarely used, but I have been in wonderful worship services in which we marched round and round the inside of the church singing it.

The Great Litany is intercessory prayer at its best, dating back to the fifth century in Roman Christian tradition. Our earliest English publication of it dates to 1544, and we have retained much of that language in our present prayer book. The Great Litany covers all sorts and conditions of people and situations. The petitions are usually sung or said by a deacon or other leader, and the responses are said or sung by the congregation.

Here is a sampling appropriate to today:

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world; to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to bestow freedom upon all peoples,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to show pity upon all prisoners and captives, the homeless and the hungry, and all who are desolate and oppressed,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to inspire us, in our several callings, to do the work which thou givest us to do with singleness of heart as thy servants, and for the common good,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for, all women in childbirth, young children and orphans, the widowed, and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Look on page 154 of the Prayer Book for that portion called "The Supplication" which is used "especially in times of war, or of national anxiety, or of disaster." Today, we could pray the entire Great Litany.

In peace,

The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

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