Litany

(Gr. = “supplication”). A form of alternating prayer in which the biddings or petitions are spoken (or sung) by the minister, and the people make the same response at short intervals, e.g., in: Kyrie eleison: “Lord, have mercy” “We beseech Thee, hear us.” It may derive from the prayers and psalms of the synagogue, and it has analogies in pagan worship. The earliest known Christian litanies are found in fourth-century Antioch and from there spread through the Eastern Church. They play a prominent part in the worship of Eastern Christians today. In the Roman Catholic Church, litanies indicate special services such as Rogationtide processions. Here the invocation of Christ and the Holy Trinity is followed by that of numerous saints. The Litany of the Book of Common Prayer omits the invocations of saints. Appointed to be sung or said after Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, it is used also at ordinations.