After the opening proclamation, the Great Litany is chanted. This litany begins every liturgical service of the Orthodox Church, as well as virtually all sacraments and special services. It is the all-embracing prayer of the Church for everyone and everything. It consists of petitions to which the people respond: Lord have mercy.
At Liturgy we pray for the world, every week, without fail. We pray for the world at the start of the service in the Great Litany and then after the Gospel praying this time the Litany of Fervent Supplication and Litany for the Deceased among others and this continues after the Anaphora or “offering up” of the Eucharist, again after we approach the cup for the Holy Mysteries, until the final dismissal. Each time we pray for mercy. Our response to the laundry list of need and hope and anxiety is to ask for mercy. It’s humbling.
When an item on the list of prayers offered throughout the service strikes me particularly that day I punctuate that prayer with the sign of the cross as if to say, “yes, this…” Most of the time it’s because that has been a subject on my mind that week but sometimes the urge comes from someplace else and I don’t know why I add that emphasis. I don’t know why except to say that perhaps it’s some new awareness I have, cells splitting in my soul to create new life, new hope, new perceptions.
We pray without fail each week at Liturgy for the “nation’s unborn children” in one of the last Litanies of the morning and I find myself adding my “yes” to this one, almost unconsciously now. It’s no secret that I fall into a more Liberal leaning crowd on the political spectrum. Where the concepts of pro-life and pro-choice are concerned I have my own complicated and hopefully struggle-worthy views. It’s not something I take lightly and it’s not something that should go without discussion, compassion, empathy and prayer in large quantities.
And so I offer my “yes” in that Litany but not just because of legislation or doctrine or even the practice of abortion but more in the name of hope. In hope I pray for the world, in hope I pray for our leaders, patriarchs and fellow man, in hope I pray for all of us and our futures; grown ups and children and fetus and zygotes and those who are yet just gleams in the eye. Lord, have mercy.