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The Ectenias (Litanies).


During the course of the divine services, we often hear a series of prayerful supplications which are intoned slowly by a deacon or the priest in the name of all those praying. After each petition the choir sings, "Lord, have mercy," or, "Grant this, O Lord." These are called ectenias (litanies), which are Greek words meaning "entreaty" or "ardent supplication."

These are five of the most frequently used litanies:

o        The Great Litany, or Litany of Peace, begins with the words "In peace, let us pray to the Lord." It contains many different petitions for prosperity and salvation of various groups, and after each one the choir chants "Lord, have mercy."

o        The Small Litany is a shortened form of the Great Litany. It begins with the words "Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord." It contains three petitions.

o        The Augmented Litany begins with the words "Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Thy great mercy, we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy." After each petition the choir responds with "Lord, have mercy" thrice. Therefore the litany is termed "augmented," since it is an intensified supplication.

o        The Litany of Fervent Supplication begins with the words "Let us complete our morning (or evening) prayer unto the Lord." After each of the petitions of this litany, except for the first two, the choir responds with "Grant this, O Lord."

o        The Litany for the Reposed is composed of entreaties to the Lord that He might grant rest in the Heavenly Kingdom to the souls of the departed by forgiving them all their sins.

o        Each of these litanies concludes with an exclamation by the priest glorifying the Most-holy Trinity.

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