The German Litany - Reintroduced
The Rev. Dr. BTG Mayes wrote an excellent article for Concordia Theological Quarterly some time ago regarding the use, or lack thereof, of the Great Litany, and exhorted the Church to reintroduce this ancient prayer. I decided this summer that we would give such a reintroduction a go, first in our school. It was Pastor Weedon’s idea to skip the Litany that can be produced via Lutheran Service Builder and instead to try a full go reintroduction of Luther’s German Litany (in English). Pastor Weedon got into contact with Mr. Matthew Carver, translator extraordinaire. Mr. Carver graciously allowed us the use of his translation of Luther’s German Litany. He also formatted his translation to Luther’s original tones, and even more graciously allowed us to copy them both. (One may find an English translation and the tones in Luther’s Works, Vol. 53, pp. 163-170).
School started here on Wednesday of last week, and so our beloved Kantor Muth briefly practiced with the children during their music classes prior to the first time we prayed it at Matins, which was this past Friday. We will be accompanied for the first few weeks, but soon enough we’ll simply pray it without the help of the organ. Pastor Gleason led our praying this morning; the second time the children have prayed it at Matins and his first time praying it.
Our plan is to pray the Great Litany at Matins on Mondays and Fridays. This Advent, Deo volente, the children will get to assist in the reintroduction to the majority of the congregation when we pray it at Vespers. Last Friday before we prayed it for the first time, I instructed the children to consider and think about the petitions as we pray them, putting their thoughts to the petitions and add names and faces to those for whom we pray. During catechesis I’m going to start each lesson briefly discussing one or two of the petitions and why we might be praying that way and also giving a brief example of who they might want to pray for when they implore the Lord to hear us.
Do read Dr. Mayes’s paper, you might be convinced like I was. Here is his conclusion-
Can the Great Litany, the Lutheran Church’s heritage from ancient days, again be restored to its original form, and once again become loved and cherished in our congregations and homes? It undoubtedly can. The needs and dangers of our time are no less than when Luther reintroduced the Litany against the threat of Muslim invasion in Europe and against papal suppression of the fledgling Reformation movement. Our need for this ancient prayer is no less than it was in the sixteenth century. Even today, it can cease to be an obscure liturgical antiquity and can become a well-known hymn and one of “the topics with which it is necessary to deal in the true Christian church and about which we are concerned.”