celtic preayers

A Little Litany

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The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes litany as:
'A form of prayer consisting of a series of petitions or biddings sung or said by a deacon, priest, or cantors, to which the people make a fixed response. The litany apparently originated at Antioch in the 4th century, spreading to Constantinople and later to the West. Pope Gelasius I (492-6) introduced into the Mass a litanic intercession, of which the Kyrie (the response prayer Kyrie Eleison - Lord, have mercy) is the sole surviving relic.'

To illustrate the way in which the Jews used what we now call a litany, we have only to look at the 136th Psalm which was used in the public worship of the Temple, being recited alternately by priest and people.

1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
2 Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
3 Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever:
4 To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy endures forever;
5 To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy endures forever…
6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy endures forever;
7 To Him who made great lights,
For His mercy endures forever-
8 The sun to rule by day,
For His mercy endures forever;
9 The moon and stars to rule by night,
For His mercy endures forever.
10 To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,
For His mercy endures forever;
11 And brought out Israel from among them,
For His mercy endures forever;
12 With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,
For His mercy endures forever;
13 To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
For His mercy endures forever;
14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His mercy endures forever;
15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His mercy endures forever;
16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
For His mercy endures forever;
(Psalm 136 in NKJ version)


In like manner we find in the Book of Daniel the canticle of the three youths in the fiery furnace; each verse ends with the words" Praise and exalt Him above all for ever