THE LITANY OF LORETO:
KNOW ITS ORIGIN AND WHY WE PRAY IT IN THE HOLY ROSARY.
KNOW ITS ORIGIN AND WHY WE PRAY IT IN THE HOLY ROSARY.
Have you ever wondered why we pray the Litany of Loreto, its significance, and the reason behind all the invocations we say to Mother Mary? This excerpt from In Conversation with God, vol. 7 by F. Fernández-Carvajal is an excellent explanation which provides the answers to our questions and will lead us to appreciate more praying the Litany of Loreto.
“After contemplating the lives of Jesus and Our Lady during the recitation of the Our Fathers and Hail Marys, we finish the Rosary with the Litany of Loreto. The compilation of invocations bursts forth with vivid praise in all the splendour of the images expressed in these phrases. The form of the particular praises and petitions varies according to country, family and personal piety.
The origin of the Litany of Loreto goes back to the first centuries of Christianity. Then it consisted of short dialogue prayers between the celebrant and the faithful. They focused above all on beseeching divine mercy, and were said at Mass and during processions. At first they were directed to Our Lord, but soon invocations to the Blessed Virgin and other saints developed as well. The original praises of the Marian Litany stem from popular expressions of loving admiration which accrued over time. Many come from the writings of the Eastern Fathers of the Church. Round about the year 1500 at the shrine of Loreto, Christians began to sing them in solemn worship. The devotion soon spread throughout the world.
Each invocation is an ejaculatory prayer we affectionately address to Our Lady. Every one of them reflects a particular dimension of the Blessed Mother’s magnificent soul. The phrases are ordered according to the principal Marian truths. These include her:
- divine maternity,
- her perpetual virginity and mediation,
- her universal Queenship
- and her universal example of Christian living.
When we beseech the Holy Mother of God we are explicitly calling on her most intimate relationship to God.
When we praise her as the Virgin of Virgins we lovingly recognize her full dedication to the Father’s plan of salvation.
As we invoke the Mother of Christ we emphasize her key role in the mission of Christ the Mediator, Saviour and King. By praising her as Queen and Mediatrix we exult in the Lord’s Kingship over all creation.
- The initial phrases of the Litany suggest her attributes in broad strokes and the rest develop and expound upon these. The Virgin our Mother is the Holy Mother of God. This is the greatest title we can address her with since it is the basis for all the others.
- As the Mother of Christ, she is rightly praised as the Mother of our Creator and the Mother of our Saviour.
- She is consequently the Mother of the Church and the Mother of Divine Grace.
- We shower her with other loving reminders of her special qualities that follow naturally from these first ones –Mother most Pure, Mother most Chaste, Mother Inviolate, Mother Undefiled, Mother most Amiable, and Mother most Admirable.
- Then we sing forth other notes of the harmonious chord of Mary’s most intimate union with God. These have to do with her perpetual virginity. She is Virgin most Prudent, Virgin most Venerable, Virgin most Renowned, Virgin most Powerful, Virgin most Merciful, and Virgin most Faithful
After invoking our Mother as a perfect example of all virtue, we continue to exalt her with further admiring salutations.
- We call on her as the Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom Cause of our Joy, Spiritual Vessel, Vessel of Honour, Singular Vessel of Devotion, Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, and House of Gold.
The Mother of God continually exceeds her duty in our service as mediator between God and men through Christ (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, 25 March 1987,38). Three different symbols represent her universal mediation.
- She is the new Ark of the Covenant and the Gate of Heaven since through her we reach God.
- We also beseech her as the Morning Star who always helps us find our way in life.
- We often ask her intercession as the Health of the Sick, the Refuge of Sinners, the Comforter of the Afflicted, and the Help of Christians.
Finally, Mary is Queen of heaven and of earth because she is the Mother of the universal Sovereign. In the broad spectrum of Christ’s heavenly kingdom there are angels, saints, and holy souls who are striving for sanctity now in this life as wayfarers. We petition each one of them through our Mother as the Queen who stands at the summit of all creation.
- She is Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Virgins and Queen of all Saints.
- The Litany of Loreto concludes with four further expressions of Queenship. We hail Mary, Queen conceived without Original Sin, Queen assumed into Heaven, Queen of the most Holy Rosary, [Queen of the family] and Queen of Peace.
By pausing slowly to consider each one of these praises we can marvel at the gifts God has bestowed on Our Lady. We are filled with awe before the countless divine graces she is adorned with. How fortunate we are to have such a Mother constantly at our side. At times we can use each individual invocation of the Litany as an ejaculatory prayer to remind her frequently of our love for her and of our desire for her protection.”
-Excerpt from In Conversation with God, vol. 7. available inhttps://scepterpublishers.org/products/in-conversation-with-god-7-volume-set
-Thumbnail courtesy of Rodolfo Reyes Jr.
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