Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Litany for Ash Wednesday (Part I)

The Anglican Ash Wednesday service is beautiful. Peace and reverence, contrition and humility are the marks of this service. The boys and I attended the 9:30 a.m. service at Victoria House and joined four others for the morning service. Grouped around the Ackers' round oak dining room table, the mood was somber yet reverent. On the table were four votive candles burning, several small icons laying flat on the table, a large cross in the middle, and along one side was the paten and chalice on the stone "altar," covered with a purple cloth. Father Acker was also robed in purple, the color of Lent which symbolizes our penitence and Christ's royalty.

We started first with The Litany (or General Supplication) in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It starts thus (responses of the congregation are italicized):

O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth;
Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful;
Have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God;
Have mercy upon us.

Then comes a section which our response is: Good Lord, deliver us as we asked God to deliver us from our sins, from the assaults of the devil, from blindness of heart and pride, from hypocrisy, hatred, and malice, from the deceits of the world, from natural disasters, from false doctrine, heresy, and schism, and from hardness of heart, among many other evils and dangers.

We respond to the next portion of the Litany with We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord as we pray for: God's governance of His holy Church universal, to rule the heart of our President and other leaders of our country, to illumine the hearts of all church leadership, clergy, and deacons with "true knowledge and understanding of Thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth, and show it accordingly." We also respond with the words above as we pray for missionaries, for all of God's people, for all the nations, for our own hearts to love and fear God, for all Christians to hear and obey God's Word, to strengthen the weaker believers and to "beat down Satan under our feet." We continue to pray for travelers, for widows and orphans, for our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and for our own true repentance and for God "to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to Thy Holy Word."

Then we pray the Kyrie: Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us. And afte that, we pray the Lord's Prayer.

We finish with this prayer:
We humbly beseech Thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of Thy Name, turn us from all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant, that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in Thy mercy, and evermore serve Thee in holiness and pureness of living, to Thy honour and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Litany is only the first part of the Ash Wednesday service. I'll post more about the service over the next few days. It truly is wonderful!

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