Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Litany of Light - A New Prayer for Today

Here is what I believe could be a powerful contribution to the New Evangelization and the transformation of the culture.

After reflection on the medieval theology of light of figures such as St Hildegard of Bingen, Bishop Robert Grosseteste, St Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, Carrie Gresse has written a beautiful prayer called The Litany of Light, which has just received an imprimatur from the Most Reverend Liam Cary, Bishop of Baker, Oregon. This is the fruit of a unique online class she has created, A Survey of the Philosophy of the Good, the True and the Beautiful, from the ancient Greeks to the present day.

So what has this got to do with the New Evangelization and the transformation of the culture?

Well, as I see it, the Litany is an example of “para-liturgical” prayer, a prayer that can be said in common, and which through its themes and structured approach leads us to a deeper participation in the highest prayer - the worship of God in the sacred liturgy. (Other examples of such prayers that you might know about are the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet.)

In his statement on the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI talked about the need for a balanced prayer life which harmonizes prayer in the liturgy, para-liturgical prayer and personal prayers. It is through prayer, he says, united to the person of Christ in His mystical body, the Church, that we are supernaturally transformed. (I wrote about this also in an article called The New Evangelization and the Domestic Church.) By grace, we have joyful Christian lives that shine with the light of Christ.

It is the example of the Christian life that we give to others, despite ourselves, so to speak, that draws other to the Church, because they see it and want what we have. To the degree that we let Him work through us, our actions are graceful - literally - and speak of Christ beautifully. We become the New Evangelists whose work and activity will create a culture of beauty.

This image of light, as exemplified by Christ in the Transfiguration, has always been associated with the highest goal of the Christian life - partaking of the divine nature in union with Him - by which all happiness is given to us. Therefore, a meditation upon the Light which is structured in such a way that it enhances our chances of participating in it is a valuable contribution to a radical transformation of the world twice over!

Here is the Litany as described by Carrie herself, and featured in the National Catholic Register. 

Litany of Light

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
R. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Christ, Light of the World, hear us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Mother of the New Dawn, pray for us.

Holy Trinity, source of all light, illuminate the darkness in our world:

To the minds of those dimmed by sin, bring your light.
To the hearts of those gripped by pornography, bring your light.
To those suffering depression or mental illness, bring your light.
To the souls enslaved by substance abuse, bring your light.
To those burdened by same-sex attraction, bring your light.
To those gripped by anxiety and fear, bring your light.
To the hearts of those who mourn, bring your light.
To the souls and bodies of abusers and the abused, bring your light.
To those with no place to call home, bring your light.
To those intent on killing in the name of God, bring your light.
To abortion clinics, bring your light.
To brothels and human-trafficking locations, bring your light.
To hospitals, pharmacies and nursing homes, bring your light.
To classrooms of despair, confusion and falsehood, bring your light.
To violent and drug-infested streets, bring your light.
To war-torn territories, bring your light.
To lands darkened, flooded, or destroyed by natural disasters, bring your light.
Wherever there is confusion, despair, loneliness and anger, bring your light.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
St. Lucy, pray for us.
St. Augustine, pray for us.
St. Hildegard of Bingen, pray for us.
St. Claire, pray for us.
St. Albert the Great, pray for us.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
St. Bonaventure, pray for us.
All the Choirs of Angels, pray for us.
Mary, Light in the Darkness, pray for us.

V. Light of the World, who take away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord.
V. Light of the World, who take away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Light of the World, who take away the sins of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.


All sacred Christian art should in some way reveal this Light, whether it is the halo of the Saint, the uncreated light of the risen Christ, or the light of Baroque art contrasted with the darkness. The Gothic cathedral arose out of a desire to communicate divine light through the architecture.

As I read through her words, it strikes me that this is a prayer in the spirit of the great Baroque art of the 17th century especially. One by one, she lists so many of the great evils which abound today and as a remedy calls for the Holy Trinity to “bring your light.” This contrast of shadow and light is deliberated accentuated in Baroque art so as to tell us visually that while there is evil and suffering in the world, there is also Christian hope that transcends it and which is in the Light which “overcame the darkness.”

Perhaps meditation upon these themes might inspire artists to create new, 21st-century works in the Baroque style. Such a style would participate in the tradition of Rubens, but speak to people today visually, just as the icons of Gregory Kroug do, and as this Litany will speak to those who suffer today through its words.

Art, main feature, Titian: the Transfiguration; Gregory Kroug: the Harrowing of Hades; San Chapelle, Paris; Rubens: the Deposition.

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