- The word "Litany" is of Greek origin, from litancia, derived from lite, meaning a "prayer." In the early Church Litany included all supplications and prayers whether public or private. Afterwards it came to mean a special supplication, offered with intense earnestness, and this will explain the title of the Litany in the Prayer Book, viz.: "The Litany, or General Supplication." The Litany as now used is substantially the same as that compiled by Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. It is a separate and distinct service, but is commonly used as a matter of convenience after Morning Prayer, and may be used after the Evening Prayer. It is appointed to be read on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and like all other prayers is said kneeling. An examination of the Litany shows it to be divided into six divisions as follows: I. The Invocations being earnest appeals for mercy to each Person in the Godhead, first separately and then collectively. II. The Deprecations, being those petitions having as their response, "Good Lord, deliver us." III. The Obsecrations, being the last three petitions having as their response, "Good Lord, deliver us," beginning with the petition, "By the mystery," etc. IV. The Intercessions, including all the petitions to which the people respond, "We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord." V. The Supplications, beginning, "O Christ hear us," down to VI. The Prayers with which the Litany closes. By reason of its responsive character the Litany is a very soul stirring and heart searching supplication, is designed to keep the attention constantly on the alert and to enliven devotion by calling upon the congregation to make their petitions for those deliverances and blessings recited by the minister.
American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. — New York, Thomas Whittaker. William James Miller, M.A., B.D.. 1901.
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