18 August 2009

Good Lord deliver us

After the Quicunque vult, so you will discover, your Prayer Book has the Litany. But when, be you Protestant or Papist, did you last hear that said or sung in church or in procession? Yet Cranmer ordered it to be 'sung or said' three times a week.

Cranmer's Litany affords, as Cuming pointed out in his history of Anglican Liturgy, a superb example of Cranmer's mind at work, a mind which was a capacious repository of everything Cranmer had ever prayed, or heard, or read. Essentially his Litany is derived from the Sarum Litany but phrases and expressions and ideas break in from an extremely wide spread of sources within the Tradition of Western Latin Christendom. Except that it omits the Saints - a fault easily remedied - it is a scintillating summation and efflorescence of that Tradition. Yet we Anglicans so often fail to realise we're sitting on something good.

Its predecessor Litanies were used in ordinations, in Rogation processions for the crops, when processing the relics round the town ... The great Forty Hours Devotion - the Sacrament exposed for three days as a stimulus for prayer in times of great adversity - has the Litany at its heart. We used the Litany once a year before the whole College at Lancing, and I was always moved by the humbled silence of the student body ... not all of whom were always exempt from the temptations of adolescent self-consciousness ... as priest and choir moved round that great Minster Church of the Assumption and S Nicolas singing Cranmer's Litany to the old Sarum tones.

Once a year is not enough. Or, to be practical, Fathers, chopped-up bits of it go very well into Benediction.


Anonymous said...


At my Parish (St. Francis in Oregon) we use the Litany as a replacement for the Preparation at the Foot of the Altar during Lent, there not being sufficient room for a Procession.

Bits for Benediction? Maybe we'll try that. Thank you for your fine posts.

Anonymous said...

"Remember not, Lord, our offences..."

Purcell's ghostly setting of this ancient text which Cranmer brilliantly snipped into the Litany always sends chills up my spine. "Remember not" is no doubt familiar to all as the antiphon *every* priest says prior to vesting for Mass. (It can also be found as part of the Order for the Visitation of the Sick.)

Listen to Purcell here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuFNWlWtpew

(This masterpiece is not so sublime as his "Hear My Prayer:"


But nought can approach his "Awake, and with Attention Hear" being a paraphrase on Ezechiel:

Part 1

Part 2

This last is especially apt and graphic in the context of the Litany.)

These are perilous times not only for God's people but for all humanity. Yes, good Lord deliver us.

C. A. Brand said...

Thanks, Father,

At Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church (Anglican Use) in Houston, we sing the Litany in procession on the 1st and 5th Sundays in Lent (with saints restored, as in the Book of Divine Worship). And also on Rogation Sunday. On Trinity Sunday, we even chant the Athanasian Creed in procession before the Introit, believe it or not. It still amazes me that all this is possible in the Catholic Church, at least in our little "use" of the modern Roman Rite in Texas.

Keep up the good work and be assured of our continued prayers!

S.R. Fraczek said...


Lincoln Cathedral has the Litany said on Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:00, and on Sundays at 7:45am. Sunday is always BCP, Wednesdays and Fridays vary. When, as was often the case, it was just a retired priest (now gone, alas) and me, we'd use the BCP version.

At Durham Cathedral the Litany is chanted in procession, all around the building, at the start of each Sunday Sung Mass in Lent. It is normally BCP, although one or two rather silly modern versions are used which set a different text. As part of the liturgy, it replaces the Kyrie, so the Mass continues with the Collect. The Intercessions are omitted (hurray!), and the Penitential Rite occupies their normal place. As you said, it's moving to have everyone standing in silence, as the procession slowly winds itself around.

Dexter Bracey said...

At Norwich Cathedral the Litany is sung in procession at the beginning of Mass on the Sundays of Lent, usually in the BCP version.
As I am reading this post on a Wednesday morning, I can say that I used the Litany within the Office this morning, as I tend to do on Wednesdays and Fridays (I tend not to on Sundays, I must confess!). Although it is not ordered to be used in the Common Worship office book, the Litany is there in a perfectly acceptable rendition into modern English, to be used by those of us who know and love the Anglican liturgical tradition.
Sadly Father, you are right when you say that "we Anglicans so often fail to realise we're sitting on something good". I all too often observe a tendency among Anglican Catholics to instinctively dismiss any liturgical texts that are provided by the Church of England whilst cravenly adopting anything that emerges from the Roman Catholic Church, no matter how lacking it might be in poetry or content. Given that sucessful vernacular liturgy is one of the strengths of the Church of England, I am left wondering why Anglican Catholics so often display this self-loathing tendency.

Unknown said...

I think I am right in saying that All Saints' Margaret Street sings the Litany in procession at the start of Migh Mass on the first Sundays in Lent. I don't know which version they use (BCP or CW) but their music list also sometimes indicates a Litany of the Resurection sung en route to the font for Baptisms &c., I used to enjoy going there quite often in Fr Hutt's time.

Anonymous said...

Shame they removed (inorganically, of course), "... from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities: Good Lord deliver us."

Only joking!