A Reformed Litany of the Saints: For All Saints’ Day

Article 22 authoritatively asserts that the, “…Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

Indeed it is. Nowhere in the Bible has God revealed that the departed saints are capable of hearing our petitions. They may, but we cannot know, because only an authoritative revelation from God would make it certain, and we have no such revelation. Therefore, to pray to the Saints as the papists and Orthodox do (even if only to ask for their prayers) is to construct a piety on a foundation of air and uncertainty. Moreover, the history of the late Middle Ages, as well as the observable piety of many who belong to the Church of Rome or the East today, shows us that reaching out in one’s spirit to departed saints very quickly trespasses on the communication that God intends for us to have with himself alone. He alone knows our thoughts. He alone hears our cries. To take our needs to the saints is to slight the God who desires to provide for them. Worse than this, to assume that the Saints somehow take more pity on us than the Father who would give his only Son for our sake, is to insult the goodness of our God and Savior.

For all these reasons, and in the face of a morass of false-piety to the saints in heaven still tempting the saints on earth, I believe our Anglican Reformers were most blessed in their warning and prohibition to us in Article 22, and it was of great wisdom that all petitions to the saints were removed from our liturgies, and not included in the Book of Common Prayer, ever. Unlike other sometimes controversial elements of the prayerbook (I’m looking at you, Epiclesis) Invocation of the Saints has zero prayerbook precedent. It is therefore necessary that all faithful leaders of Anglican Liturgy do not import this Romish practice into our public liturgies. While the patristic precedent for a simple “ora pro nobis” may permit a priest in some circumstances to stay his hand in forbidding a mature Christian under his care to pray something similar; when it comes to public worship, it must be strictly verboten. Regardless of public/private — the received cultus of the saints today is much more developed than a simple ora pro nobis, and no part of it can be touched without great danger to the right reverence of the honor that is due to our Almighty God.

Having said all that, I admit there remains something marvelously enchanting about the great Roman martyrology. All those names. All those names. Of apostles and martyrs and virgins and bishops and teachers. With names that reveal the rich tapestry of cultures and languages from whence the Faithful have been called. A Litany that gives concrete “faces” to the abstract idea of the communion of saints. A New Covenant addition to the list that makes up the great cloud of witnesses in the letter to the Hebrews. There is something trenchant about the Litany of the Saints. And yet, as a sincere Anglican, I cannot in good faith pray ‘ora pro nobis’, and as a priest I am bound to not lead the People of God in such a vainly invented thing.

And so I would suggest a reformed Litany of Saints. I have removed the “Ora Pro Nobis”, and replaced it with “Glory to God” chanted to the same chant-tone, adding a “for” before each blessed name to make the litany make grammatical sense.

In keeping with some instances of English versions of the Litany of the Saints, and because of its excellent “face-giving” value as well as catechetical instruction, a brief description of each saint is included in the Litany. I offer it here for my fellow reformed catholics, for use at an All Saints’ Holy Communion, either during the processional, or at the prayers of the people after the petition that mentions the faithful departed.

Here is a youtube video of a small sample.

A Modified Litany of the Saints

Let us give thanks for the Communion of Saints, among which we are blessed to be found, singing, “Glory to God”

For the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
For Holy Michael, captain of the Lord’s host
For Holy Gabriel, angel of the annunciation
For Holy Raphael, angel of healing

For Holy Uriel, angel of light
For All the Holy Angels and Archangels,
For St. John the Baptist, Forerunner of the Lord
For St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus
For All the Holy Patriarchs and Prophets,

Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
For St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles
For St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles
For St. Andrew, First to be called to Christ
For St. James, First martyr of the apostles
For St. John, The disciple whom Jesus loved
For St. Thomas, who doubted the Lord’s resurrection
For St. James, first Bishop of Jerusalem
For St. Philip, who said “Show us the Father”
For St. Bartholomew, an Israelite without guile
For St. Matthew, Holy Evangelist
For St. Simon, the Zealot
For St. Jude, Servant of Jesus Christ
For St. Matthias, numbered with the eleven
For St. Barnabas, son of encouragement
For St. Luke, beloved physician
For St. Mark, holy evangelist

For All the holy Disciples of the Lord,
For All the holy Innocents,

Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.

Glory to God.
Glory to God.

For St. Stephen, First Martyr
For St. Lawrence, Courageous help of the poor
For St. Vincent, patient sufferer
For Sts. Fabian and Sebastian, servants in their station

For St. Alban, first martyr in England

For St. George, noble knight
For Sts. Cosmas and Damian, generous physicians

For St. Boniface, apostle to Germany

For St. Thomas Becket, unswayed by the world

For King Charles the First, defender of the faith

For the Martyrs of Uganda, faithful to their first love

For Matthew Ayariga the 21st man, who joined the martyrs in Egypt
For All the holy Martyrs,

Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

For St. Sylvester, builder of great churches in Rome
For St. Gregory, the great bishop of Rome
For St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan
For St. Augustine, true convert and teacher
For St. Jerome, translator of the Scriptures
For St. Martin, soldier and servant of the poor
For St. Nicholas, benevolent giver

For St. Patrick of Ireland, missionary to his captors

For St. Augustine, first bishop of Canterbury

For St. Edward, King and Confessor

For St. Hugh of Lincoln, defender of the Jews
For All the holy Bishops and Confessors,
For All the holy Doctors,

Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

Glory to God.

For St. Anthony, who first went to the desert
For St. Benedict, organizer of monasticism
For St. Bernard, returning to purer discipline

For St. Aelred, extoller of friendship
For St. Dominic, powerful preacher
For St. Francis, lover of the lowly,
For All the holy Priests and Levites,
For All the holy Monks and Hermits,

Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.

Glory to God.

For St. Mary Magdalene, who was forgiven much
For St. Agatha, Refusing to marry a heathen
For St. Lucy, preserving her purity
For St. Agnes, whose chastity was protected
For St. Cecilia, singing songs of true love
For St. Anastasia, faithful disciple
For St. Catherine, who suffered heroically
For St. Clare, patient with many burdens
For All the holy Virgins and Widows,
For All the holy Saints of God,
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.
Glory to God.

The Rev. Ben Jefferies

The Rev. Ben Jefferies is a sinner, grateful to the Lord for his mercy. He grew up in England, and emigrated to the United States in 1999. He went to Wheaton College, and several years later discerned a call to ministry and went to seminary at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Duncan in 2014. He currently serves The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Opelika, Alabama. He served on the Liturgy Task Force of the ACNA from 2015-2019, and was the lead designer for the production of the printed prayer book. He continues as the Assistant to the Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer (2019), and serves on the board of directors of Anglican House Media Ministries. He is married with three daughters.


'A Reformed Litany of the Saints: For All Saints’ Day' have 13 comments

  1. October 29, 2019 @ 11:23 am Karl Webb

    I think someone does not understand the nature of those in the Church Triumphant and has presumed the dead in Christ to be totally dead. More revisionist drivel that will continue the eviction of the Anglo-Catholics from ACNA and change the church’s teaching to suit American neo-reformers’ appetites. And he’s on the Liturgy Task Force! The Continuum is becoming more and more attractive.

    Reply

    • October 30, 2019 @ 10:29 pm Christian

      Rather, stay in the ACNA and fight. Promote the idea of using Icon Corners at home. Don’t take no for an answer. If you spread appreciation of proper honor to the Saints at the grassroots it can spread more widely. Make a case for the Eastern understanding as opposed to it’s later corruption in the west Only by Rome. Christian excellence in the visual arts will benefit if you do so, and will only suffer if you all up.

      Reply

  2. Brandon LeTourneau

    October 29, 2019 @ 11:45 am Brandon LeTourneau

    Fr., is there a place to find the Sarum litany of Saints? I’d like to workshop something like this from it for a project of mine.

    Reply

  3. October 29, 2019 @ 4:06 pm Robert Placer

    There is reference to the saints offering prayer in the form of incense in Revelation 5:8. In this verses the incense is referred to as the prayers of the saints who have been redeemed, so for whom are they praying? In Revelation 6:9-11, the martyred saints under the altar are asking the Lord when will he judge and avenge their innocent blood? White robes referring to their baptism in Christ are given to them as assurance of God’s judgment coming upon their killers and they are told that more of their brethren will follow them in martyrdom before the end comes. And in Revelation 8:1-13 much incense is burning with the prayers of the saints with intercessions for righteous judgment, for whom are they praying? The immediate historical context are the Christians martyred in the Holy Land before the Lord’s visitation 66-70 AD and the events leading up to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Are the saints still interceding for the persecuted Church today before the coming final judgment of the world? The Church uses incense to symbolise the prayers of the saints both the living saints now and the saints in the Church Expectant. In the Book of Revelation the saints burning incense both in heaven and on earth are praying for the Lord to bring judgment upon the earth. These chapters and verses provide the biblical foundation of the communion of saints in heaven whose prayers are offered to God mixed with incense interceding with God to bring down judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple for the Christian martyrs. Are the saints in the Church Expectant still praying for us and the new martyrs to come for the Church until the Lord carries out the final judgment?

    Reply

  4. October 29, 2019 @ 5:52 pm Fr. Howard Giles

    “By the doctrine of the invocation of saints then, the Article means all maintenance of addresses to them which intrench upon the incommunicable honour due to GOD alone, such as have been, and are in the Church of Rome, and such as, equally with the peculiar doctrine of purgatory, pardons, and worshipping and adoration of images and relics, as actually taught in that Church, are unknown to the Catholic Church.” Tract 90, Section 6

    Reply

  5. October 29, 2019 @ 7:33 pm Ven. Patrick Malone

    Father, thank you! This is wonderful and will be used this Sunday as we Observe All Saints day at Holy Cross Anglican!

    Reply

  6. October 29, 2019 @ 10:27 pm Christian

    Why not say “Glory to God in the Highest” each time? Much more majestic and emotional imo. More intense in praise to Him as well.

    Reply

  7. October 30, 2019 @ 6:28 am Rev. Dennis Washburn

    This is an interesting article as well as a theologically and aesthetically pleasing way to recall some of the saints. Using it as a processional would also avoid an intrusion into the Prayer Book liturgy. Having said that I would add that there seem to be some issues. First, there is the question: who decides which saints to include and how long should the list be? Secondly, aside from theological considerations, another BCP and “reformed catholic” principle has been keeping a relative simplicity. Yet, in recent times, we always seem to be looking for elaborations and additions in all sorts of special liturgies. So although this litany is nice, I find personally that the collect for All Saints Day says enough for the liturgy and that any elaboration can be saved for the homily.

    Reply

  8. October 30, 2019 @ 8:34 am Fr Timothy Matkin

    Jeffries asserts that \”reaching out in one’s spirit to departed saints very quickly trespasses on the communication that God intends for us to have with himself alone.\” Yet, the Bible records prayers offered to the saints and angels. What would lead one to believe that such petitions are offered in vain? \”O praise the Lord, ye angels of his . . . O praise the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye servants of his that do his pleasure\” (Ps 103:20-21). His argument comes off as a kind of reverse fundamentalism which turns the articles into confessional statements and then elevates them to a level of authority above scriptures, that in fact judge the scriptures. To understand the bible is to stand under its authority.

    Reply

  9. October 31, 2019 @ 8:49 pm Christian Cate

    A little parallelism is in order here: “The Articles were made / written for man, man wasn’t made for The Articles.” If after the passage of time and upon further review some of them are found to possess an incomplete understanding, then they should be adjusted. Not adjusted in some kind of liberal, progressive way that denies the faith, but in such a way that truly reflects accurate faith. When Article 22 was written, subsequent reasonings and responses by the Orthodox were not well known. In today’s pluralistic world, these reasonings are widely available and the ACNA can be enriched and blessed by them.

    Reply

  10. November 2, 2019 @ 3:41 pm Christian Care

    Well, I hope this time Akismet and the Moderators will let my thoughts on this stimulating subject get through to the message board.

    I’ve marinated in the Western Rite of the Antiochian Archdiocese for 13 years and have recently started regular fellowship in my much closer local ACNA parish. I still plan to worship at my old parish once a month because the worship there encourages my heart and brings me joy. All of this being said . . .

    Advocation of the Saints for me personally is really pretty simple. The practice for me increases my overall devotion and commitment to the Christian faith, creates in me a “spiritual patriotism” for the Kingdom of God and for our great King and Lord of Hosts.

    When I request the prayers of the Saints I feel like we’re all in this thing called the Christian life together. I never expect specific outcomes or results from these prayers, nor do I believe I increase in any Merit or earn Merits before God.

    My devotion quickly moves beyond the individual Saints to our God, himself, evoking gratitude to Him for their faithful lives and continuing possibility for my life to be faithful like theirs was. The Saints show us that no temptation has overtaken all of us except temptations that are common to one and all. God was and is faithful and provided a way out and ways out to move beyond our temptations to faithfulness and obedience and ultimate and final perseverance in the Christian life.

    Pictures of the Saints, Stained Glass Windows, Statues and Stations of the Cross all add to the richness and beauty of our local church buildings.

    If I wanted austerity as a Christian I would go back to the Baptist tradition or join the Amish. Great people there, but not for me.

    Just my personal reflections and experience about this subject. Worship of God heals the heart, and knowing and embracing our history is deeply encouraging and provides deep rootedness.

    Blessings to all,

    The “Anglodox” Christian

    Reply


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