Splitting Up the Litany

Discussion in 'Liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer' started by DadHocHypothesis, Jun 1, 2023.

  1. DadHocHypothesis

    DadHocHypothesis Member

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    Compared to today, the classic Prayer Books are known for their rigidity: for example, the 1662 allows for a total of 4 variations to the Communion service in its printed text. This does not mean that everything was everywhere the same: unwritten variations and "house rules" were everywhere. Hymns were inserted. Anglo-Catholics would insert Psalm texts into Holy Communion at their historic places, the spikier ones even moved the Gloria up to after the Decalogue. Evangelicals, on Communion Sundays, would have their regular Mattins with Sermon and then get right down to business by eliminating everything in the Communion service before the Confession.

    This is all to say that modifying the written services were subject to much local variation. This is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. My question is: has anything like this been done with the Litany? It's supposed to be said 3 times a week, but it's half as long as Morning Prayer all by itself. Is there a standard practice when it comes to splitting up its petitions over the week, or month?
     
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  2. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Not that I know of. There might be something in Dearmer’s classic text about it. Doing the 1662 Morning Prayer plus the Litany is a very heavy load. The Readings alone (according to the original calendar) are much lengthier than they are in modern lectionaries. It feels a little strange to do the Litany in private though. I think the 1662 Prayer Book envisaged congregations doing it in procession on weekdays. It never really caught on. One of the curiosities of the 1979 BCP is that the Litany is only in traditional English (“Rite One”), while most of the rest of the book is in contemporary English (“Rite Two”).
     
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  3. Fr. Brench

    Fr. Brench Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In the 2019 Prayer Book, the Litany is authorized to be lengthened or shortened at the discretion of the minister, so one could experiment with breaking it up and spreading it out over a wider span of time if desired. This is especially helpful considering the 2019 Litany is actually longer than its forebears!

    That said, it's not anywhere near "half as long as Morning Prayer", because it doesn't include multiple psalms and long chapters of readings.

    In my own practice, I tend to omit "The Supplication" (which is the bulk of the material between the Lord's Prayer and the closing Grace) most of the time I say the Litany, and use it on Fridays, or on Sundays during Lent.
     
  4. DadHocHypothesis

    DadHocHypothesis Member

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    Huge fan of your work, Fr. Brench!

    My latest iteration of my personal devotional is actually experimenting with splitting up the 1928 Litany, but I've... never actually used it. Every time I've said the Litany since writing it, I've just said the whole thing (minus the Supplication).

    In theory, though, it's...
    • "O God the Father" to "Spare us, good Lord," every time.
    1. "Good Lord, deliver us" petitions
    2. "We sinners do beseech thee" to "unity, peace, and concord"
    3. (Introduce with "we sinners, etc.") "Give us a heart" to "according to thy holy Word"
    4. ("We sinners...") "Succor, help, and comfort" to "thy heavenly kingdom"
    • "Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us" to the end, every time.
    What do you think of my armchair liturgics?

    I may need to re-upload the "depersonalized" version of my devotional, if there's any interest.
     
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  5. Fr. Brench

    Fr. Brench Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I'm having a hard time finding the divisions you describe in steps 3 & 4, perhaps a phrase got switched in your description? In any case, I'm not really that surprised that you end up reading the whole anyway. From my perspective (being most familiar with the long 2019 version) the classical litany feels a bit shorter and less drawn out.

    Slightly aside of the main topic: the idea of "evening out" the length of daily things....

    Early in my liturgical experimentation phase, I got really interested in trying to make everything the same length each day. The Scripture readings a tight average of 20 verses or so (as most 20th century lectionaries try to do), the same number of additional prayers, rearranging the Psalms Appointed so I wouldn't have as many 'long days' like when Pss. 78 or 89 show up, etc.

    Eventually I found that this goal was meaningless. It didn't help me "keep up" with the Office, nor did it make anything easier - in fact it made the liturgy more complicated as I had to remind myself where to start and stop in various places, or have a special bookmark to guide me as I skipped around the psalter. I learned that uneven lengths are simply part of the rhythm of prayer, and the Litany is part of that, especially in its original schema where it punctuates Morning Prayer on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.

    Thus you could split up the Litany and ease your way through it over the course of the week, but its purpose and value probably stand most effective if it's a "special" addition to the Office that only shows up a couple times a week.

    Plus, a note of suggestion for any parish priests who might be reading this: consider picking a handful of Sundays per year on which to appoint the Litany at the start of the regular Communion service! For most parishioners, Sunday morning is the only time they pick up a prayer book, so unless you teach them to pray with it, many of them may never do so on their own.
     
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  6. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Common worship morning and evening prayer book isbn 9780715123157 has a litany which provides various methods of praying it in sections however the beginning and end sections are always read...check it out.
     

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  7. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    I see what you are trying to do and would suggest comparing with the Lutheran hymnals since 1978 or so. They tended to group the petitions by whatever the appropriate response was. So instead of reading each individual petition and then, for example: We beseech you to hear us, Good Lord. The text will make a long paragraph of all of them and then a single response. Thus the current LCMS Litany is only about 2 pages and then the closing options.

    I also have in my possession a trial form for a Litany Service after the Lutheran rites which I think is a very good option for mid-week. It's probably 12-15 minutes said, maybe 20. If it's sung slowly 25 (sung is the intended practice but we've all seen parishes where the music is just bad).