Family Study of the Divine Liturgy: Litanies Before the Great Entrance

Christ and the children icon

Within the text of the Divine Liturgy the following litanies follow the readings. They are:

  • Fervent Supplication
  • Deceased
  • Catechumens

In most parish practices, only the litany of fervent supplication remains.It is also during this litany than many priests will take the opportunity to add petitions for special intentions.

This set of petitions differs from the Litany of Peace in that the first three petitions are directed specifically towards God asking that He hears us and grants us mercy. The remaining petitions are responded not with just one, but three Lord Have Mercies, again emphasizing that this is a fervent supplication.

Together with your Children

As in the Litany of Peace, make a list together of individuals and specifics which can be addressed by each petition and bring this list along with you to church.

If there are special intentions that day, make note of them to discuss after church. Sometimes the intentions are for holidays such as Mother’s Day or Veterans day, other times they are for individuals in the parish, or major crisis in the world (like the abducted Bishops in Syria). If you as a parent make note of some of these, you can then add them to your prayer list at home with your children. 

A word on the Litany of the Catechumens and Sunday School

This litany offers prayers said by the whole church body to help the catechumens on their journey into the faith. Traditionally after this litany, the catechumens are told to “depart” because only the faithful could remain for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

For us today, this should emphasize the importance of showing up to Liturgy on time, at the very least in time for the Readings. The first portion of the Liturgy was designed as a teaching tool, for catechumens especially, but for all present.

It is a very sad thing that many churches have Sunday School during the Divine Liturgy as it has been structured in such a way as to teach the faithful. Remember that “Sunday School” is still a very new concept within the Orthodox church, mostly coming from Protestant influence. When possible, children should always be present for everything possible. At the very least, if our children are to be removed from the Liturgy for Sunday School, it would make the most sense for children to miss the first part of the Liturgy and be fully present for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is completely inappropriate when children are shuttled in and out of the church only for the sake of communion. Not only do they miss the context of the Holist Sacrament, but it disrupts the church as a whole.

If you are a Sunday School teacher, do not be afraid to bring your class into church for particularly important events. I taught for a few years in a church where my class had to meet the second-half of the liturgy. On Sundays in which we had important moments such as Palm Sunday or Sunday of the Cross, I told my class we would remain in church for the entire Divine Liturgy. I prepped them the week before discussing what they would see. As your priest and director ahead of time, and if you believe it necessary, send a parent letter home. Do not let them miss out on the rich traditions of the church!

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