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...

"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!