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A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer
by Anthony Sparrow, D.D.

London, 1672.

Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy, &c.
Lord have mercy, &c

This short Litany as it was called by some Ancients, this most humble and piercing Supplication to the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, was frequently used in ancient Liturgies, as it is to be seen in them, and also in the COUNCIL of VAS. c. 5. Anno Dom. 440, or thereabouts.

Because (saith that Council) the sweet and wholsom Custom of saying Kyrie Eleeson; or Lord have mercy upon us, with great affection and compunction, hath been received into the whole Eastern and most of the Western Church: Therefore be it enacted that the same be used in our Churches at Mattins, Evensong, and Communion-Service. It was anciently called ektenhV ikesia, the earnest or vehement supplication; because as it is a most pathetick Petition of mercy to every Person of the Blessed Trinity, so it was uttered by those primitive good men, with much earnestness and intention of Spirit, being sensible of their danger of sinking into endless perdition, without the mercy of the Blessed Trinity, and therefore (with no less earnestness than S. Peter cryed, Master Save, when he was sinking-into the sea) did they cry out Lord have mercy. God the Father have mercy, God the Son have mercy, God the holy Ghost have mercy: have mercy upon us in pardoning our sins, which make us worthy to be cast out of thy favour, but unworthy to serve thee: Have mercy, in helping our weakness, and inability of our selves to serve thee: Many are our Dangers, many are our wants, many wayes we stand in need of mercy, therefore Lord have mercy, &c. This excellent Comprehensive Litany is seasonable at all times, and all parts of the Service, after our Singing of Hymns and Psalms, after our Hearing and Confession of Faith, such is our unworthiness, such our weakness, that it cannot be thought amiss to beg Gods Mercy, after we have pray'd, such is our dulness and coldness in our prayers that we had need pray, Lord have mercy upon us.

It may be observed that this earnest and humble supplication was usually in old Services, and so is in ours, set immediately before the Lords Prayer, as a preparation to it, and very fitly; For as we cannot devise a more suitable preparation to prayer than this humble Petition of Mercy, and acknowledgement of our own misery; so is there no Prayer whereto greater preparation is required than that Divine Prayer sanctified by the sacred Lips of our Lord, wherein we say, Our Father, &c. Clem. in Const. l. 7. c. 25. advises when we say this prayer to be careful to prepare our selves, so that we may in some manner be worthy of this divine Adoption to be the Sons of God; lest if we unworthily call him Father, He upbraid us as he did the Jews, Mal. 1. If I be your Father, where is mine Honour? The Sanctity of the Son is the Honour of the Father. Indeed it is so great an Honour to call God our Father, 1 Ioh. 3. that we had need with all humility beg pardon of his Majesty, before we venture upon so high a title. Therefore our Mother the Church hath been careful to prepare us for this divine Prayer, sometimes by a confession of our sins and Absol. as at Morning and Evening Service; but most commonly by this short Litany: First, teaching us to bewail our unworthiness and pray for mercy, and then with an humble boldness to look up to Heaven and call God our Father, and beg further Blessings of Him.

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