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THE term Litany (λιτανεια) belongs properly to any solemn form of entreaty, but in Christian usage it has gained a specialized meaning as the result of a somewhat complex history.

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The Litany

In the East, as early as the IVth century, the word was used to describe penitential services. S. Basil speaks of these as being in use in his day at Caesarea (c. 375), but admits that they were innovations, and not as old as the days of S. Gregory Thaumaturgus (254).1 The term, thus employed, denoted days or acts or services of penitence or of supplication; and when it made its way into the West it was the equivalent of ‘Rogation.’ This is the first point in the history of the term.

Origin of the term, in the East,
A second point was reached a little later when, during the stress of the Arian conflict, and as a counter-blow to Arian propaganda, S. Chrysostom introduced processions at Constantinople (398), accompanied by responsorial singing.2 This move proved so successful and popular that the custom was retained permanently; and processions were thenceforward used as a method of solemn supplication, joined often with fasting and special prayer in time of emergency.3 This, too, penetrated into the West, and the best known instances have been already quoted in describing4 how both at Rome and at Vienne under special emergencies solemn days of intercession were appointed and observed by a supplicatory procession, and were not merely observed for the occasion, as had hitherto been the case, but retained a permanent place in the Kalendar; in Rome the Greek name was the one in use, and the procession of S. Mark’s Day was called the Litania Maior, in contradistinction to other lesser Litaniæ or penitential observances. In Gaul the Latin term Rogation was more commonly used, and it has survived still as the name for the most important of the Rogationes, viz., the three days preceding Ascension Day which Mamertus appointed.5





and in the West.

So far the only evidence as to the character of the service used on such occasions is that which comes from Constantinople as to responsorial singing. It is clear that such a form of singing would naturally lend itself well to use in procession, where the various petitions could be simply and effectively responded to by the moving crowd: accordingly it is natural to find that in the West too at the Litaniæ or Rogations psalms were sung, probably responsorially, and formed the main part of the service.6

Nature of the service.

It was not, however, processional psalmody that was to be associated ultimately with the name of Litany, but a different, though kindred, liturgical form. There had grown up in the East, probably in the IVth century, a type of responsorial prayer very similar to responsorial psalmody.

Prayer in this form was already a prominent feature of the Eucharist, and it has remained so in the East. In the West, on the contrary, the use of it in the Liturgy has become very restricted; but on the other hand, it has developed greatly outside the Liturgy, and has become the independent and self-contained form of service, now known as Litany.

The Litany form of prayer in dialogue
As regards the use in the Eucharist of this form of responsorial prayer the form in the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions is typical.7 The deacon bids the prayer or names the subjects of petition, and the people answer to each ‘Kyrie eleison,’ ‘Lord have mercy.’8 A series of petitions is said thus for each of the classes of worshippers — catechumens, energumens, &c. — as they are dismissed before the Service of the Faithful begins, together with other petitions for peace, protection, forgiveness and a happy death, appended to those for the catechumens. The Mass of the Faithful; then begins with a continuation of the same litany in a more general and developed form.9 This Deacon’s litany, or Ektene,10 appears in a similar shape but generally on a: reduced scale in a similar position in most of the Eastern Liturgies, and accompanied by the same response.

In the Eucharist.

Eastern Liturgies.

In the Roman Liturgy there seems never to have been a very extended use of this responsorial form of prayer: with the Kyrie as refrain: but it was in use there, being: probably imported in the Vth century, and formed the introduction to the service. Already in S. Gregory’s time11 the method of performance had altered, and ‘Christe eleison’ had been introduced as a response side by side with ‘Kyrie eleison’; but also the process had already begun by which the long string of varying petitions fell away, till nothing was left but the responses; and ultimately these were restricted in number till the nine-fold Kyrie of the mediæval mass was all that survived.12

The Gallican Rite was more conservative and kept more closely to the Eastern customs, and litanies with varying petitions like the Greek Ektene are found surviving in part of the Ambrosian13 and Mozarabic liturgies.14
So far there is no sign of this responsorial form of prayer being anything but stationary, though mention has been made of processions connected with the observance of Litaniæ and with responsorial psalmody. But the next step is a very obvious one. The word Litany was in use in the West for two kindred things, a penitential procession, and a form of responsorial prayer of which the refrain was Kyrie eleison:15 nothing was more natural than that they should coalesce, i. e. that the Litany, as a peculiar type of prayer, should become identified with the Litany as a penitential procession. And thus was reached the compound mediæval use of the term ‘Litany,’ as meaning a form of prayer in dialogue, either stationary or processional, and for either regular or occasional use.

The Litany form and the Litany days coalesce.

Both the stationary and processional uses were exemplified in the early Liturgy: the Kyrie, as has been already shown, is the remains of the former: but further it is to be noted that on the days when a solemn procession preceded the stational Mass at Rome, the Litany was sung as the Pope came near to the Church where the Mass was to be said: this use of a Litany in procession before Mass spread elsewhere, and continued in a shrunken form down to the Reformation in the shape of the Procession about the Church introductory to High Mass on Sundays and Festivals. These two uses of the Litany were too much alike to exist side by side simultaneously. In early days the Kyrie was dropped and the processional Litany retained;16 but later the Kyrie became a fixed feature of the Liturgy and the procession preceding it was altered so as to be unlike the Kyrie.
Survival at Mass.

Besides this regular use of the Litany in connexion with the Liturgy it is to be observed that in other special services, both Roman and Gallican, the Litany form won and kept a place, as for example in the Ordination service and kindred services, the Consecration of the Font on Easter Even, or the Dedication of a Church.

Besides these uses there was also the occasional use on such days as those already described; in Lent, and at times of special emergency: and such were of continual recurrence, so that a Rogation or Processional Litany became the normal form of supplication for special needs.

Occasional use of the Litany.
As regards the form of the Litany, it is clear that the Roman type went through much transformation. When the varying petitions were dropped, only the Kyrie eleison remained; and there is an instance of the use of nothing else but the repetition a hundred times of the three formulas Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison for a processional Litany.17 But in other cases the varying petitions were not dropped, only new forms of response to them came into use: to one class, Ora pro nobis, Pray for us; to another, Libera nos domine, Good Lord deliver us; to another, Te rogamus audi nos, We beseech Thee to hear us. Petitions of the first of these classes multiplied especially rapidly, until the Litany threatened to become little else but an invocation of saints.

In other cases the Litany form was dropped altogether, and there were occasions when the service during the Procession, as early even as the time of S. Gregory, consisted of chanting a number of anthems.18 And it was thus, as Beda relates.19 that S. Augustine and his company of missionaries entered Canterbury, chanting what was called a Litany, but which was really nothing else but one of these processional anthems.


The Roman form of the Litany came early to England and can be traced from early times. The following form, belonging to the eleventh century, is an example of the use of the Anglo-Saxon Church:20

Kyrie eleïson, Christe eleïson. Christe audi nos.
Pater de cœlis Deus, Miserere nobis.
Fili Redemptor mundi Deus, Miserere nobis.
Spiritus Sancte Deus, Miserere nobis.
Sancta Trinitas unus Deus, Miserere nobis.21

[Then follow a long series of invocations, beginning “Sancta Maria ora,” and ending “Omnes sancti, orate pro nobis.”]

Propitius esto,     Parce nobis Domine.
Ab omni malo,     Libera nos Domine.
Ab insidiis diaboli,     Libera nos Domine.
A peste superbiæ,     Libera nos Domine.
A carnalibus desideriis,     Libera nos Domine.
Ab omnibus immunditiis mentis et corporis,     Libera nos Domine.
A persecutione paganorum et omnium inimicorum nostrorum,     Libera nos Domine.
A ventura ira,     Libera nos Domine.
A subita et æterna morte,     Libera nos Domine.
Per mysterium sanctæ Incarnationis Tuæ,     Libera nos Domine.
Per crucem et passionem Tuam,     Libera nos Domine.
Per sanctam resurrectionem Tuam,     Libera nos Domine.
Per admirabilem ascensionem Tuam,     Libera nos Domine.
Per gratiam Sancti Spiritus Paracliti,     Libera nos Domine.
A pœnis inferni,     Libera nos Domine.
In die judicii,     Libera nos Domine.
Peccatores,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut pacem et concordiam nobis dones,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut sanctam Ecclesiam Tuam regere et defensare digneris,    Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut domnum apostolicum et omnes gradus ecclesiæ in sancta religione conservare digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut archiepiscopum nostrum et omnem congregationem illi commissam in sancta religione conservare digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut locum istum et omnes habitantes in eo visitare et consolari digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut omnibus benefactoribus nostris æterna bona tribuas,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut remissionem omnium peccatorum nostrorum nobis donares,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut animas nostras et animas parentum nostrorum ab æterna damnatione eripias,     Te rogamus audi nos.
Ut nobis miseris misericors misereri digneris,     Te rogamus.
Ut inimicis nostris pacem caritatemque largiri digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut fructus terræ dare et conservare digneris,     Te rogamus.
Ut fratribus nostris et omnibus fidelibus infirmis sanitatem mentis et corporis donare digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut cunctis fidelibus defunctis requiem æternam donare digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut nos exaudire digneris,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Fili Dei,     Te rogamus, audi nos.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,     Parce nobis Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,     Miserere nobis.
    Christe, audi nos.
    Kyrie eleison.
    Christe eleison.
    Kyrie eleison.

Litany of the Anglo-Saxon Church.
Some similar form was in universal use in England up to the Reformation. It formed an integral part of certain services, for example the Blessing of the Font on Easter Eve or the Ordination of Deacons and Priests: it was also said kneeling daily throughout Lent after Terce was ended. Further, the Litany was also used as an independent processional service, not only on the Rogation Days and the Litania Maior (S. Mark’s Day) but also on the Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent and on special occasions when there was a call to public prayer. The old features thus survived: the Litany was sometimes processional and sometimes not, and its use was in part regular and in part occasional.22

Mediæval Use.

It was a special occasion calling for public prayer, which first produced an authoritative English translation:23 but in preparing the Litany for the Processions in 1544 Cranmer was not content to produce a hasty or ill-considered piece of work. It is clear that he had before him not merely the current Latin Litany as used through Lent or on the Rogation Days with the different form prescribed for the dying, but also the form of Litany put out by Luther in 1529,24 which had already been utilised in Marshall’s Primer. There are also signs that he turned to Eastern sources and used the Deacon’s Litany in the Liturgy of S. Chrysostom.25 Thus he did not merely translate the old Latin form but enriched it from foreign sources.26
The English Litany.

The Invocations.



The old Western Litanies generally commenced with the form Kyrie eleison, each part of it being once or thrice repeated.27 This was omitted in preparing the Litany of 1544, and thus an important point of connexion with the early history of Litany-prayers was lost.28 At the same time the words miserable sinners were added in the invocations of the Trinity, and also the words, proceeding from the Father and the Son were inserted as a descriptive clause in the third invocation, to balance those in the first two invocations. These changes, and the mode of repeating the clauses whole, instead of saying each as an invocation and response, are special features of the English Litany.29

Next in the old Litanies came the invocation of Saints, beginning with S. Mary, and ending, after a great number of clauses, with Omnes sancti: Orate pro nobis. In Luther’s Litany these were entirely omitted. Cranmer was at first not quite so drastic, but the number of invocations was greatly three such clauses were retained. They stood as follows:—

    Saint Mary, mother of God, our Saviour Jesu Christ, pray for us.
    All holy angels and archangels, and all holy orders of blessed spirits, pray for us.
    All holy patriarchs, and prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, and all the blessed company of heaven, pray for us.

Each clause was repeated by the choir, in the same way as the preceding invocations of the Trinity. In the, revision of this Litany for the King’s Primer (1545) these three clauses still appeared, but only the words pray for us were given to the choir. The clauses were entirely omitted in the Litany of Edward VI.

The long petition which comes between the· Invocations and the Deprecations which follow them, was newly inserted in 1544, in the place of the old and short clause, Propitius esto: while the response Parce nobis Domine was retained. It is a translation of the greater part of the anthem assigned to the Penitential Psalms, which stood in the Breviary immediately before the Litany.30

Then follow, in all the Litanies, the Deprecations, varying both in phrase and number, but preserving a general uniformity of subject; in the Latin form they were given commonly in single clauses, each of which was followed by Libera nos Domine. Cranmer not only selected his Deprecations from his various sources and added to them, but with more doubtful wisdom he combined a number of petitions together under one response: this change made a gain in brevity and rapidity, but sacrificed the simplicity and directness of the old Litany-form. Two points call for special notice.31 In 1544 the last of the series contained the clause, ‘from the tyranny of the bishop of Rome, and all his detestable enormities,’ after ‘privy conspiracy :’ this held its ground through the reign of Edward, but disappeared in Queen Mary’s Litany. Secondly, it is to be observed with regard to the same deprecation that the words ‘rebellion’ and ‘schism’ were inserted at the last revision of the Prayer Book in 1661.
The Deprecations.

The next portion, comprising the Obsecrations as a plea for mercy by or through the redemptive work of Christ, is formed from the same sources by a similar process of compression.

The next clause, ‘In all time of our tribulation, &c.,’ stands alone: it was formed by combining four separate clauses of Luther’s Litany of which the first two were novel.

The Obsecrations.

The form of the Intercessions which now follow is common to all the Litanies, but the subjects vary considerably, and the signs of the influence of the Lutheran Litany become far more prominent in the English service. After the suffrage for the Church, those for the ecclesiastical orders usually came first, and were followed by those for the prince and for Christian people.32 Yet the intercessions for rulers of the Church and of the State were occasionally transposed, and in 1544 the series of petitions for the King was set next after that for the Church: and this order remains.

The clergy were described by Cranmer, following Luther, under the names of ‘bishops, pastors, and ministers of the Church;’ this was altered at the last revision to ‘bishops, priests, and deacons,’ — an expression more distinctly opposed to Presbyterian notions of the Christian ministry.

The Prayer for the peace of all nations is characteristic of our Litany and of the circumstances which gave rise to it. The Sarum Litany prays, ‘to give peace and concord to all kings and princes,’ and the phraseology seems to have been adopted by Cranmer though modified. The ancient Anglo-Saxon Litany is remarkable in this respect, that it contains a suffrage ‘for our enemies.’

The remaining suffrages are almost entirely drawn from Luther’s Litany, but the phrase ‘in danger, necessity and tribulation’ seems to come from the Liturgy of Constantinople, and possibly the succeeding, petition as well: and the petition for the fruits of the: earth is alike both in Luther and in the Sarum Litany.

The last suffrage has nothing corresponding to it in any other Litany:33 it is a beautiful summary, expressing what we ought to feel at the conclusion of such petitions as have preceded: it is intended to supply any omission of a request, or of a confession, which ought to have been made: a prayer for repentance, forgiveness, and the grace of amendment of life.34

The Invocations which follow are according to the old form.35 The Litany proper then ends with the triple Kyrie eleison and the Lord’s Prayer: the former primitive feature of the Litany survives only here in the English form. In the old form a number of suffrages were appended, introducing a Collect; but Cranmer here deserts Sarum in favour of Luther’s Litany, where the present versicle, response, and prayer, ‘O God, merciful Father, &c.,’ occur in this position without preliminary suffrages, but with additional prayers added after the Collect. Cranmer took these three36 and left the rest, thus reducing this section to very small dimensions.

The Intercessions.

Versicles and Prayer.



The following words, ‘O Lord arise,’ begin a new section, but owing to the accidental omission of Amen at the end of the preceding Collect37 the fact is obscured. This new section is one which was a special intercession in time of war. It opens with the processional anthem and psalm verse with which it was customary to begin the Procession,38 and then passes at once to the special versicles.

Two changes were made in the process of adaptation er the anthem. First in translating the verse of the Psalm, Cranmer completed the sense by adding the remainder of the sentence, which in the Latin forms the second verse; the whole passage is Ps. xliv. 1 in our translation. Also the order was changed, and the anthem with a slight variation in translation was made to precede instead of following the Gloria patri. It is difficult to explain the latter change, as it makes no improvement in the sense, while it entirely destroys the form.39

The intercession in time of war.


The Versicles were taken from the occasional portion added to the Litany in time of war:40 unlike the suffrages above, they were sung by the choir not the officiant, but they led up to a final sacerdotal versicle and Collect, said by him. The distinction is still retained here; from 1549 to 1661 this couplet was marked ‘The Versicle,’ and ‘The Answer,’ but it is now in each case marked as ‘Priest’ and ‘Answer.’ This particular versicle is unprecedented in this position,41 but the Collect (with a different sacerdotal versicle) was appointed to be said at the close of the Litany on the last of the Rogation Days.42 It was freely adapted for the present position, and the intercession of the saints was no longer mentioned in it.

and collect.



The closing section of the Litany of 1544 consisted of an appendix of Collects, just as the old Litanies of the English Church ended, for the most part, with a group of seven Collects.43 Three of these were retained here by Cranmer, viz. the first, second and fifth, and two additions were made: the first of these ran thus:

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we in our trouble put our whole confidence upon thy mercy, that we may against all adversity be defended under thy protection. Grant this, &c.

The second addition was the Prayer of S. Chrysostom, which no doubt Cranmer noticed when he turned to the Liturgy of S. Chrysostom for help in the preparation of the Litany:44 and with this the Litany of 1544 ended.

A close study of the text of the various subsequent editions of the English Litany reveals many inconsistencies and small changes which are merely bewildering because they do not show any relationship between the successive issues. All that can be said is that none of these editions was copied exactly from any other. The Litany in the Primer of 1545 differs in small points from that of 1544:45 some points of resemblance to these Henrician editions appear in the first Edwardine Ordinal which are not in the First Prayer Book.46 The First and Second Prayer Books each brought innovations: those due to the latter were mainly reproduced in the Primer of 1553.47 The Marian Litany, in some respects innovated, and in others reverted to the Henrician forms.48 The three early forms of Elizabethan Litany were similarly eclectic49: so that no solid ground is reached till the Elizabethan Prayer Book.
Textual changes:

But among all these minutiae several more important: changes stand out clear. First, the clause against ‘the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable (’abominable’ in 1545) enormities,’ which was introduced in the Henrician Litany of 1544, was excised in the Marian Litany, and after reappearing in one of the tentative Elizabethan editions, disappeared finally at the Elizabethan Prayer Book. Secondly, the three invocations of Saints, also characteristic of the Henrician Litanies, though retained down to 1548,50 disappeared in 1549.

Thirdly, while the appendix of Collects varied so much in successive editions, both in its own contents and in its relation to other parts of the Book, that it is not worth while to attempt to describe the variations, it is worth while to notice that the new Collect added in 1544 was used in 1549 to enlarge the Collect, ‘We humbly beseech Thee, O Father, &c.,’ and so ceased to have a separate existence.51 The prayer of S. Chrysostom is the only one of the collection which has uniformly retained its place: of the rest some have disappeared, some have been placed elsewhere. ‘The Grace’ was first appended to it as the closing Benediction in 1559.52

three of importance.

The English Litany was put out originally as a separate service; both in 1544 and 154553 it was used as a procession on the accustomed days, i. e., Wednesdays and Fridays, similarly to the Lenten use of the Litany; it was first brought into permanent relation with other services when the Edwardine Injunctions54 ordered that it should be sung immediately before High Mass by the priests with other of the quire kneeling in the midst of the church, and should supersede for the time all other processions or Litanies in church or churchyard.

This was in itself a considerable change, for the Litany had long ceased to be a normal preliminary of Mass, and was so only upon the Rogation days,55 or such special occasions as the Processions in time of war, when a Votive Mass naturally followed. Moreover, the new Injunction abolished the ordinary Sunday Procession before High Mass, which was a popular form of service, including in some places prayers in English, especially the solemn Bidding prayer.56 It was now intended, (perhaps not without some reminiscence on Cranmer’s part of primitive and Eastern custom) to prefix to Mass a more complete form of vernacular intercession. The Litany was ready to hand and had been proved successful in this position by constant use on Wednesdays and Fridays at intervals during the preceding three years.57 The only inconvenience that had been found was that some disorder attended its recital in procession,58 and therefore in this respect a change was made, and the Litany was to be sung kneeling.59

The use of the Litany :


regular before High Mass.

When the First Prayer Book was issued it did not originally include the Litany, but only a rubric that upon Wednesdays and Fridays it should be sung according to the Injunction and should be followed by at least the Ante-communion Service.60 This implies that the people were still to use it as ‘a Procession on their knees.’ The earliest editions had the Litany appended as a supplement, while in later editions it was regularly incorporated in the book and stood next after the Communion. It was clearly not intended that the Litany should wholly sweep away the old Processions, for a rubric at the end of the book provided thus: Also upon Christmas Day, Easter Day, the Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, and the feast of the Trinity may be used, any part of the Holy Scripture hereafter to be certainly limited and appointed in the stead of the Litany. This shows that Cranmer had not yet given up his hopes of a Processional in English.61 But in fact the work was never accomplished. In the Second Book the Litany was moved to its present place, and it remains as a solitary and stationary ‘Procession’ preparatory to the Eucharist. The rubric of 1552 merely ordered it for Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at other times when it shall be commanded by the Ordinary. The 18th Elizabethan Injunction repeated the Edwardine Injunction with slight verbal changes, again expressly connecting the Litany with ‘the time of communion of the sacrament,’ while the 48th ordered the saying of the Litany and prayers in Church on Wednesdays and Fridays with no mention of the Ante-communion service.

In the First Prayer Book.







The Second.

In time the connexion with the Liturgy was lost sight of: this was mainly the result of the massing together of three services into one, as when Grindal, archbishop of York, in his visitation (1571), directed ‘the minister not to pause or stay between the Morning Prayer, Litany, and Communion, but to continue and say the Morning Prayer, Litany, and Communion, or the Service appointed to be said when there was no Communion, together, without any intermission: to the intent the people might continue together in prayer, and hearing the Word of God; and not depart out of the church during all the time of the whole Divine Service.’62

The connexion with the Liturgy obscured


The revisers of 1661 went a step further by ordering the Litany to be sung after Morning Prayer:63 this made little difference64 so long as the services were still massed together; but the recent custom of subdividing the services has seriously broken the connexion, and now in many places the Sunday Eucharist is deprived of its proper introductory Procession.65
and almost forgotten.

The only occasional use of the Litany prescribed in the Prayer book is that in the Ordinal, where it has been a feature of the service from very early times. Uniformity has brought it about that the Litany there shall have the same appendix of prayers for a time of war as is included in the regular Litany. It may be doubted how far this feature is a desirable part of the regular normal course, and whether the Litany would not be better suited for general use without it: but certainly it is an especially inappropriate appendix to the service on the special occasion of an ordination.66

The one form of Litany is really used in three different ways, (1) as the Procession before the Eucharist on Sundays, (2) as a votive service on the old Station days of Wednesday and Friday,67 and (3) as a special act of pleading in Ordinations: and it is all the more necessary to keep the distinction of use clearly in mind, because there is only the one form available for the three different purposes.68

The use in the Ordinal.

The Occasional Prayers are entirely English compositions; they were collected in this place for the first time in 1661, but some of them had already appeared elsewhere in previous editions. The prayers for Rain and Fair Weather were appended to the Communion Service of 1549. The Prayers In the time of Dearth and Famine were added in 1552; the second form was left out in 1559, and only restored, with alterations, in 1661. The Prayer In the time of War and Tumults belongs to 1552, and also that In the time of any common Plague or Sickness. It is probable that all these forms had their origin in the necessities of the time.69 The Prayers to be said every day in the Ember Weeks were added at the last revision. They are peculiar to the English ritual.70 The Prayer that may be said after any of the former is as old as the Gregorian Sacramentary,71 and in an English form has had a place in the Primer as long as that book can be traced, standing with the Collects at the end of the Litany.72 It was, however, omitted during the reign of Edward VI., but restored in the Litanies at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth (1558 and 1559).

The Prayer for the High Court of Parliament was composed most probably by Laud, when Bishop of S. David’s. It first appeared in an ‘Order of Fasting,’ in 1625, and again in 1628 in a special form of prayer ‘necessary to be used in these dangerous times of war.’ In these early forms it is almost verbally like the present prayer, only somewhat longer; it also contains the words ‘most religious and gracious king,’73 which have been commonly supposed to have been introduced as a compliment to Charles II. In 1661 the Prayer was inserted in a special form for a Fast-day on the 12th of June, and again in the following January; and at the same time it was placed by the Convocation in the Book of Common Prayer.74

The Prayer for all Conditions of Men was probably composed by Dr. Peter Gunning, Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and successively Bishop of Chichester and Ely,75 In its original shape it is supposed to have been longer and was designed as a substitute for the Litany, no doubt to meet the objections of the Puritans.76 The Convocation, however, retained the Litany, reduced this prayer to its present proportions and adopted it as an alternative to the Litany, without, however, altering the word finally, which seems to be needlessly introduced in so short a form. Before this, no general intercessory prayer occurred in the service, except on those mornings when the Litany was said.

Occasional Prayers.

Prayers and Thanksgiving’s upon several occasions.

Praise is an essential part of divine worship. Hence we retain, throughout the services, Doxologies, Psalms, and Canticles. But these do not include that particular thanksgiving for extraordinary deliverances, or indeed for daily mercies, which is due to the author and giver of all good things. Hence some particular thanksgivings77 were annexed to the Litany, at the revision of the . Prayer Book after the Hampton Court Conference, by order of James I., under the title of ‘An enlargement of thanksgiving for diverse benefits, by way of explanation.’78 These were thanksgivings for Rain, for Fair Weather, for Plenty, for Peace and Victory, and for Deliverance from the Plague in two forms.79 At the last revision, after the restoration of the Monarchy, another special form of thanksgiving was added for Restoring Publick Peace at Home.80 Its language must have been felt to be strikingly appropriate, when read with the restored Common Prayer, after such a mournful period of civil discord. At the same time the Convocation accepted a form of General Thanksgiving, composed by Bishop Reynolds,81 an addition which rendered the book more perfect by making the Thanksgivings correspond with the Prayers.82


1 The objection was raised as to the innovations made by him: ’ Αλλ’ ουκ ην φησι, επι του μεγαλου Γρεγοριου. He replies: ’Αλλ’ ουδε αι λιτανειαι ας υμεις νυν επιτηδευετε. Και ου κατηγορων υμων λεγω ηυχομην γαρ παντας υμας εν δακρυσι ζην μετανοια διηνεκει. S. Basil, Ep, CCVII. (al. 63), ad Clericos Neocæsar, Opp. iii. 311. D. (iii. 450).

2 The Arians, not being allowed to use the churches within the city, αssembled about the public squares, and after singing heretical chants through a great part of the night, at dawn of Saturday and Sunday went through the city and out of the gates to their places of worship, singing responsorially all the way. S. Chysostom fearing that his people might be induced by these processions to join the Arians, established similar nocturnal services of singing and orthodox processions on a more splendid scale; and by the help of the Empress Eudoxia silver crosses were provided bearing waxlights, which were carried in the processions of the orthodox, until, after the rival processions had come to blows, the Arian processions were suppressed by the Emperor. Socr. Hist. Eccl. VI. 8; Sozom. H. E., VIII. 8.

3 E.g. an earthquake at Constantinople (430). Niceph. Callist. Hist. XIV. 46. Migne P. G. cxlvi. 1217.

4 Above, p. 333.

5 Both terms were in use in Gaul: e. g. Canon 27 of the first Council of Orleans (51l); ‘Rogationes id est litanias ante ascensionem Domini ab omnibus ecclesiis placuit celebrari, &c.’ Bruns, ii. 163. Cp. above, P.324.

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6 See the passages collected by Bishop, Kyrie eleison, pp. 16, 17: even as late as 572 the second Council of Braga ordered: ‘in cuius (sc. quadragesimæ) initio convenientes in unum vicinæ ecclesiæ per triduum cum psalmis per sanctorum basilicas ambulantes celebrent litanias.’ Ibid. ii·42.

7 Apost. Const. viii. 6, in L. E. W. p. 4. Cp. the opening part of that now in use in the Liturgy of S. Chrysostom printed above, p. 269.

8 For the history of this phrase, see above, p. 393.

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9 The same use is attested by S. Chrysostom; see L. E. W;, pp. 471 and ff.; cp. p. 52 for S. Basil. These three witnesses of the IVth century seem to be the earliest extant.

10 ’Εκτενη or Συναπτη is the Eastern term, not litania.

11 Epist. IX. 12. Migne, P. L., LXXVII. 956. The Pope, being charged (amongst other innovations borrowed from Constantinople) with having ordered the saying of Kyrie eleison at Mass, replied: ‘Kyrie eieison autem nos neque diximus neque dicimus sicut a Græcis dicitur: quia in Græcis simul omnes dicunt, apud nos autem a c1ericis dicitur et a populo respondetur : et totidem vicibus etiam Christe eleison dicitur, quod apud Græcos nullo modo dicitur. In quotidianis autem missis aliqua quæ dici solent tacemus; tantummodo Kyrie eleison et Christe eleison dicimus, ut in his deprecationis vocibus paulo diutius occupemur.’
    The interpretation of the passage is in several ways doubtful: it is not clear whether S. Gregory denies having introduced the Kyrie at Mass, or whether he only denies that in doing so he slavishly copied the customs of Constantinople. That the Kyrie was in use seventy or eighty years earlier in some form in Italy and Rome is clear from the third Canon of the Council of Vaison (529).

12 Duchesne, Origines, 156. The number is still undetermined in the first Roman Ordo, § 9; cp. Ordo III. 9, and for the transition the Ordo of S. Amand, Duchesne, p. 442.

13 The Ambrosian Liturgy has Kyrie eleison regularly in three places, after the Gloria in Exceisis, after the Gospel, i.e. at the end of the Catechumen’s Mass and at the end of all. Ceriani, Notitia, 43, 44.

14 Dict. Antiq. i. 1001.

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15 S. Benet (c. 530) uses litania for the Kyrie eleison. (Regula, ‘Supplicatio litaniæ id est Kyrie eleison’; cp. xii. xiii. xvii.) in prescribing its use at the close of the Hours: cp. the lesser Litany above explained, pp. 386, 393, 394. Elsewhere, e.g. in S. Gregory or in the Liber pontificalis, it means simply a procession. The Ordines use it for the Kyrie at Mass.

16 See the provisions in the Ordines Romani: for the ordinary procession, superseding the Kyrie, see Ordo I. §§ 24, 25; and for the similar omission of the Kyrie on Sundays, when there was an ordination, because of the stationary litany that was to follow in the ordination service, see Ordo VIII. § 3, and IX. § 2. In the latter Ordo at § 1 the processional litany is said only in the Church as the Pope advances to the altar: but even so it still supersedes the Kyrie.

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17 Mabillon, Comm. in Ordinem Romanum, Mus. Ital. 11. xxxiv. Migne P. L. LXXVIII. 868. Cp. Gregory of Tours, Hist. x. 1.

18 These are given to the number of forty-seven for the ‘Litania Maior,’ March 25, in the Gregorian Liber Antiphonarius: P. L. LXX VIII, 682-6.

19 Bed. Hist. Eccl. I. 25. ‘Fertur autem quia adpropinquantes civitati, more suo, cum cruce sancta et imagine magni regis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, hanc lætaniam consona voce modularentur. Deprecamur te, Domine, in omni misericordia tua, ut auferatur furor tuus et ira tua a civitate ista, et de domo sancta tua, quotiam peccavimus. Alleluia.’

20 From a Canterbury Psalter with interlinear English translation, Camb, Univ. Libr. MS. Ff. i. 23·

21 The four preceding clauses are not in the earliest forms of the Litany: see Egbert Pontifical, pp. 27, 32. Nor yet in the Litany of Easter Even. Proc. Sarum, 83-86.

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22 For a procession consisting of the Litany sung by the monks of Canterbury standing in the body of the church, while my Lord Cardinal knelt at the choir door, see Cavendish, Life of Wolsey (ed. Morley), p.69.

23 See above, pp. 31-33, for the history. There were English versions of the Litany in the fourteenth century; see Maskell, II. 217 [III. 227]; and the early English Prymer, ib. p. 95 [III. 99]. Littlehales, Prymer, and the forms in Marshall’s and Hilsey’s Primer, in Button’s Three Primers, and above, p. 43.

24 Jacobs, Lutheran Movement, 234 and ff.

25 Dowden, Workmanship, 147 and ff.

26 The form of Litany in Hermann’s Consultation (1543) is derived from the form of Luther, but it is hardly likely that Cranmer was influenced by the Consultation so early as 1544.

27 In some cases these Kyries were repeated also in the body of the Litany between different sections (see Egbert Pont., p. 33), as well as said at the beginning and end.

28 Cranmer also greatly simplified the music, and it is in this form that the Litany is best known now. For the older form of the music see the adaptation published by the Plainsong Society (Vincent and Co., 1900); this also makes plain the structure of the service, which the usual adaptation obscures.

29 For a discussion of the opening invocations see Dowden, Workmanship, pp. 152 and ff.

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30 ‘Ne reminiscaris, Domine, delicta nostra, vel parentum nostrorum, neque vindictam sumas de peccatis nostris, Non dicitur ulterius quando dicitur in choro. Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo quem redemisti pretioso sanguine tuo, ne in reternum irascaris nobis: et ne des hæreditatem tuam in perditionem, ne in æternum obliviscaris nobis.’ Brev. Sar. ii. 249. See Tobit iii. 3, and Joel ii, 17. Cp. its use below, P: 623.

31 For a tracing of the petitions in detail see Blunt, Annotated B. C. P., who gives the Latin sources fully, but not the Litany of Luther: for which see Jacobs.

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32 The Sarum Processional and Antiphonal differ here from the Breviary.
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33 One expression has been traced in a prayer at the Elevation in an edition of the Horæ B. V. M. (Paris, 1530): ‘Sanguis tuus, Domine Jesu Christe, pro nobis effusus sit mihi in remissionem omnium peccatorum, negligentiarum et ignorantiarum mearum.’ Blunt, Annotated Prayer Book, p. 587 [cp. p. 232, ed. 1884].

34 A Suffrage has been inserted in the American Litany from Luther:— ‘That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest.’ Also the Litany has some verbal differences:— ‘from all inordinate and sinful affections ‘ — ‘in all time of our prosperity’ — ‘all Christian Rulers and Magistrates,’ which is the only petition for the civil authority — ‘all women in the perils of child-birth.’ The Minister may, at his discretion, omit from the Lesser Litany to the beginning of the Collect: thus destroying the only remains left of the Kyrie and throwing the whole structure into confusion. The Litany may be used at Evening Prayer, after the Collect For Aid against Perils.

35 ‘Dona nobis pacem’ was not in the public Sarum litanies, but was in other English forms. (e. g. Egbert, 30) and in the Visitation of the sick.

36 The prayer was in Sarum Use the Collect in the Mass pro tribulatione cordis:— ‘Deus qui contritorum non despicis gemitum, et mœrentium non spernis affectum; adesto precibus nostris, quas pietati tuæ pro tribulatione nostra offerimus: implorantes ut nos clementer respicias, et solito pietatis tuæ intuitu tribuas ut quicquid contra nos diabolicæ fraudes atque humanæ moliuntur adversitates ad nihilum redigas, et consilio misericordiæ tuæ allidas ; quatenus nullis adversitatibus læsi, sed ab omni tribulatione et angustia liberati, gratias tibi in ecc1esia tua referamus consolati. Per.’ Miss. Sar. col. 797*.

37 The Amen was in the early Elizabethan Litanies, but was not filled in with the rest in 1661.

38 ‘Ordo processionis in secunda feria in rogationibus. Hæc antiphona dicatur a toto choro in stallis .antequam exeat processio, cantore incipiente antiphonam. An. Exsurge, Domine, adjuva nos, et libera nos propter nomen tuum. Alleluia. Ps. Deus, auribus nostris audivimus : patres nostri annuntiaverunt nobis. Non dicatur nisi primus versus, sed statim sequatur Gloria Patri. Deinde repetatur Exsurge Domine.’ Processionale Sarum, p. 105, ed. Henderson, 1882.

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39 The change which made the Gloria a versicle and response was not made till 1661, and was a well-intentioned suggestion of Wren. Fragm. Ill. 62.

40 ‘Si necesse fuerit, versus sequentes dicuntur a predictis clericis in tempore belli.
Ab inimicis nostris defende nos, Christe.
    Afflictionem nostram benignus vide.
Dolorem cordis nostri respice c1emens.
    Peccata populi tui pius indulge.
Orationes nostras pius exaudi,
    Fili Dei vivi, miserere nobis.
Hic et in perpetuum nos custodire digneris, Christe.
    Exaudi nos Christe, exaudi, exaudi, nos, Christe.’
    Proc. Sarum, ‘Letania in rogationibus,’ p. 120.
    The phrase’ Fili Dei vivi’ is, probably by mistake, rendered ‘O Son of David ; cp. Luke xviii. 38: but this was a not uncommon expression in mediæval devotion; see examples in Blunt, Annotated Prayer Book, ‘Additional note on the Litany,’ p. 586 [p. 234, note, ed. 1884]·

41 It was one of the Suffrages of Prime and Compline.

42 Proc. Sarum. p. 121. ‘Infirmitatem nostram quæsumus, Domine, propitius respice: et mala omnia quæ juste meremur omnium sanctorum tuorum intercessione averte. Per.’
    1. ‘Deus cui proprium est misereri semper et parcere, suscipe deprecationem nostram; et quos delictorum catena constringit, miseratio tuæ pietatis absolvat. Per.’ O God, whose nature and property, &c.
    2. ‘Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui facis mirabilia,’ &c. (The Prayer for the Clergy and People), p. 400.
    3. ‘Deus qui caritatis dona,’ &c.
    4. ‘Deus a quo sancta desideria,’ &c. The Second Collect at Evening Prayer. See above p. 403.
    5. ‘Ineffabilem misericordiam tuam nobis quæsumus, Domine, clementer ostende; ut simul nos et a peccatis omnibus exuas, et a pœnis quas pro his meremur benignus eripias.’
    6. ‘Fidelium Deus omnium conditor et redemptor,’ &c.
    7. ‘Pietate tua queesumus, Domine, nostrorum solve vincula,’ &c.

43 ‘Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui facis mirabilia,’ &c. (The Prayer for the Clergy and People), p. 400.

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44 See above, pp. 400, 401.

45 E. g. the form of the three invocations following the invocation of the Trinity vary.

46 E. g. ‘From fornication and all deadly sin.’ So also the Marian Litany, ‘Pitifully behold the dolour of our heart.’ So also the Elizabethan Litany of 1558.

47 In the First Prayer Book the petition for the fruits of the earth first took its present shape, and, except for the change of ‘as’ to ‘that’ in the tentative Elizabethan Litanies, it has retained it ever since. Again, at the same time the Collect ‘We humbly beseech Thee, O Father,’ was enlarged into its present form. The Second Book, besides other small changes, altered ‘Thy Holy Church universal’ into ‘Thy Holy Church universally.’

48 It had also peculiarities of its. own, e. g., ‘From battayle and from sudden death,’ ‘Let us not to be ledde into temptation.’

49 They agreed, however, in being the only copies in which the ‘Amen’ is appended to the first Collect. The Litany of 1559 reverted to the Henrician form of the Gloria patri, but anticipated the Prayer Book, e.g., by enlarging the suffrage for the Queen, see p. 102.

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50 See The Psalter . . . the Letanye, &c., printed by Roger Car for Anthoni Smyth, 1548. (Brit. Mus., C. 35, b, 2.)

51 Except in the Elizabethan Litany of 1558 where it occurs in both capacities; Lit. Services of Q. Eliz., pp. 7,8.

52 For the relation of this Appendix to the ‘Five Prayers’ see above, pp. 397 and ff.

53 Cranmer Remains, pp. 494,495.

54 Doc. Ann. II. § 23. See above p. 36.

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55 It has been suggested that the custom may have survived in England though not prescribed in the service books, but no evidence has been cited to support the suggestion.

56 See above, p. 255.

57 Besides the use ordered by the Mandates of June 1544, and August, 1545, other instances occurred, probably before the end of the reign (Greyfriars Chron. 49, 50), and certainly after the issue of the Injunctions, e.g., after the Battle of Pinkie; see Wriothesley Chron. i. 136. They ‘kept a solemn Procession on their knees in English.’

58 The Injunction spoke of ‘contention and strife which hath risen . . . . by reason of fond courtesy and challenging of places in procession.’

59 This Injunction was evidently not meant to be of permanent and universal authority: since even in the early years of Elizabeth the English Litany was commonly sung in Procession at S. George’s, ‘Windsor, on S. George’s Day, by the knights of the Garter and priests and clerks in copes and some of them in almuces. Machyn’s Diary; 232, 257, 258, 280, 306, and in 1661 a direction to kneel was at one period of the revision inserted into the opening rubric, but was afterwards struck out.

60 This provision links on not only to the old use of the Litany on these days in Lent, but still more naturally to the old ‘Stations’ of the Early Church, see p. 331.

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61 See above, p, 34.
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62 Doc. Ann. LXXVI.

63 This was done at Cosin’s suggestion (Works, v. 509) to prevent a ‘contentious man’ from taking advantage of the absence of direction to say it in the morning.

64 The connexion of the Litany with the Eucharist was not forgotten, e. g., in Elborow’s Exposition of the B. C. P. (1663) the Elizabethan Injunction is expressly quoted on this point, p. 53.

65 The revolutionary and disastrous Shortened Services Act of 1872 actually sanctioned the use of the Litany in the afternoon or evening. It is subversive of all liturgical order that Mattins should follow instead of preceding the Eucharist, but the divorce of this use of the Litany from the Eucharist is both practically and theoretically more unjustifiable still.

66 It is true that such a use is not without precedent, for the appendix forms part of the Second Litany in the Consecration of a Church in the Egbert Pontifical, (Surtees Soc., vol. 27, p. 33)·

67 Elborow, l. c. p. 69.

68 See Lacey, Liturgical Use of the Litany for this subject.

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69 We find an account of the Sweating Sickness, and a Dearth, in 1551: Strype, Mem. Eccl. Ed. VI. bk. II. ch. iv, Also there was a general European war, besides the more pressing troubles in Ireland: ib. ch. iii.

70 Palmer, Orig. Lit. I. p. 305. The first of these Prayers is in Cosin’s Collection of Private Devotions (1627); the second in the Scottish Prayer Book (1637).

71 In the American Book this Prayer is added to the Prayers from the Commination Service in A penitential Office, to be read on the First Day of Lent, and at other times, at the discretion of the Minister.

72 Maskell, II. p. 107 [III. p. 110]. Being a short Collect, it is given here as an example of mediæval English :-’ Preie we. Orisoun, Deus cui proprium. God, to whom it is propre to be merciful and to spare euermore, undirfonge oure preieris: and the mercifulness of thi pitie asoile hem that the chayne of trespas bindith. Bi criste our lord. So be it.’ See the original Latin above, p. 420. It is a Prayer for Mercy and Pardon in the American Prayer Book.

73 Sovereigns are mentioned as ευσεβεστατοι και πιστατατοι in the Anaphora of St. Basil’s Liturgy: L. E. W. 333.

74 Cardwell, Conferences, p. 233, note; Lathbury, Hist. of Convoc. pp. 301,302. The word Dominion was substituted for Kingdoms by an Order of Council of January 1, 1801.

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75 Bisse, Beauty of Holiness (5th edition, 1717), p. 97.

76 See above, p. 173.

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77 ‘The English ritual, I believe, is the only one which contains special thanksgivings for the mercies of God, others having confined themselves to general expressions of gratitude on all such occasions. It has therefore, in the present case, improved on the ancient customs of the Christian Church, instead of being in any way inconsistent with them.’ — Palmer, Orig. Lit. I. p. 307. See Hooker, Eccl. Pol. v, 43.

78 See above, p. 142.

79 Cardwell, Conf. pp. 222, 223.

80 Based upon Wren’s suggestion, Fragm. Ill. p. 64.

81 Cardwell , Synodalia, 658.

82 In the American Prayer Book the Prayer for all Conditions of Men, and the General Thanksgiving are inserted in their place in the Morning and Evening Prayer; and the General Thanksgiving is also inserted at the end of the Litany. The Prayer for Parliament becomes, with slight alteration, A Prayer for Congress; A Prayer to be used at the Meetings of Convention is taken in great part from a paragraph in the Homily for Whit-Sunday, changes of phrase being provided, adapting it for use in churches during the session of any General or Diocesan Convention. The Prayers, For Rain, For Fair Weather, In Time of Dearth and Famine, and In Time of War and Tumults, are taken with some changes of phrase, and omission of the references to the Old Testament; and the two forms For those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders, to be used in the Weeks preceding the stated Times of Ordination, are taken from the English Book, with only two minute improvements in the first Form, ‘who’ (for ‘which’), and ‘show forth’ (for ‘set forth’) thy glory, as ‘set forward’ immediately follows. The Prayer in Time of great Sickness and Mortality, was composed and placed in the Book of 1789; and additional Forms are provided For the Unity of God’s People, For Missions, For Fruitful Seasons (in two Forms), to be used on Rogation Sunday and the Rogation-days. Also, For a Sick Person, For a Sick Child, For a Person or Persons going to Sea, For a Person under Affliction, For Malefactors after Condemnation (all dating from 1789).
    Additional Thanksgivings (to be used after the General Thanksgiving) are, For a Recovery from Sickness, For a Child’s Recovery from Sickness (1892), and For a Safe Return from Sea. The Thanksgiving from the Churching Office is also placed among the Occasional Thanksgivings.

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