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litany(lĭt`ənē) [Gr.,=prayer], solemn prayer characterized by varying petitions with set responses. The term is mainly used for Christian forms. Litanies were developed in Christendom for use in processions. In the West there were traditionally four days for these processional litanies, the Rogation DaysRogation Days,
in the calendar of the Western Church, four days traditionally set apart for solemn processions to invoke God's mercy. They are Apr. 25, the Major Rogation, coinciding with St. Mark's Day; and the three days preceding Ascension Day, the Minor Rogations.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Eastern liturgies make frequent use of litanies, recited by the deacon; the response is usually "Lord, have mercy." The Kyrie eleisonKyrie eleison
[Gr.,=Lord, have mercy], in the Roman Catholic Church, prayer of the Mass coming after the introit, the only ordinary part of the traditional liturgy said not in Latin but in Greek.
..... Click the link for more information. is a relic of such a litany. In the Roman Catholic Church the one liturgical litany, the Litany of the Saints, dates from the 5th cent. substantially. Modeled after it are a number of nonliturgical (i.e., nonprescribed) litanies, of which the following are authorized: Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus (15th cent.), Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or of Loreto; 16th cent.), Litany of the Sacred Heart, and Litany of St. Joseph. The litany in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is much like the Litany of the Saints. Moravian and Lutheran liturgies also use litanies.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.
in Catholicism, a type of prayer that is sung or read during solemn religious processions.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
a. a form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations, each followed by an unvarying response
b. the Litany the general supplication in this form included in the Book of Common Prayer
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