Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
A general supplication used in public worship to appease the wrath of the Deity, and to request those blessings a person wants. The word comes from the Greek "supplication, " of "I beseech." At first, the use of litanies was not fixed to any stated time, but were only employed as exigencies required. They were observed, in imitation of the Ninevites, with ardent supplications and fastings, to avert the threatened judgments of fire, earthquake, inundations, or hostile invasions. About the year 400, litanies began to be used in processions, the people walking barefoot, and repeating them with great devotion: and it is pretended that by this means several countries were delivered from great calamities. The days on which they were used were called Rogation days; these were appointed by the canons of different councils, till it was decreed by the council of Toledo, that they should be used every month throughout the year; and thus, by degrees, they came to be used weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays, the ancient stationary days for fasting. To these days the rubric of the church of England has added Sundays, as being the greatest day for assembling at divine service. Before the last review of the common prayer, the litany was a distinct service by itself, and used sometimes after the morning prayer was over; at present it is made one office with the morning service, being ordered to be read after the third collect for grace, instead of the intercessional prayers in the daily service.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Litany'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/l/litany.html. 1802.