(Thank you to Deaconess Norma Cook Everist who provided the background information for this post)
As the LDA celebrates its 100th anniversary, we also mark the 60th anniversary of one of our essential documents, the Diaconal (Deaconess) Litany. The Lutheran Deaconess Community (LDC) and the Community of Lutheran Deacons (CLD) use this litany to pray together in various ways and in various places. For example, on Monday evenings, the LDC prays together via a conference call or individually. Deaconess students used to gather on Monday evenings when they lived together at Valparaiso University in Deaconess Hall. The students commissioned Rev. Dr. Ken Korby, LDA Residence Counselor, and Theology Professor to write a litany to use at these gatherings. The litany was used as part of the education/formation process, by deaconesses in the field, and at LDC annual conferences. The community prayed this litany continuously for decades.
In 1997, the LDC board asked a small group of deaconesses to work on updating the language of the litany, “being careful to keep the essence, to change only what was necessary, add only what would be helpful”. The most recent revision was in 2012 when the word “brothers” was added to the litany to make it inclusive of the new deacon students that were part of the LDA. Below is the litany as it was originally written in 1959. (Note that the language used is reflective of the time)
The Deaconess Litany (1959)
All: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
L: God, our dear Father in heaven:
C: Make us bold to trust You as beloved children.
L: Lord Jesus, our precious Savior, and Brother, who for joy did become our servant:
C: Lead us to the joyful service of the needy.
L: Holy Spirit, Giver of Life to the Church:
C: Nourish our life on the courage of Christ.
L: Holy Blessed Trinity, Author, and Executor of the mystery of our salvation:
C: Unite our hearts to praise Your name.
L: Father, after whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named:
C: Make us grateful for the companionship of other people, receiving them as gifts of Your grace; Shape us into companions for those who have not learned to live in community;
And satisfy with Your own gracious gifts those of our sisters who work in isolated places.
L: Jesus, Suffering Redeemer, and Praying Priest:
C: Assist us by patient bearing of injuries to spread the peace of Your cross; by steadfast endurance without envy or resentment to demonstrate Your victory; by steady and faithful prayer to carry our neighbor into Your gracious presence.
L: Jesus, Friend of sinners, Companion of the outcast, Associate of the needy:
C: Enlighten our eyes to see You in our needy neighbor.
L: Holy Spirit, Purifier of sinners, making us sharers in the Holiness of God:
C: Bestow upon us the mind of Christ that we neither think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think nor deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what You have called clean.
L: Holy Spirit, Fire of God, coming down from heaven, filling the Church:
C: Warm our hearts to love God and our neighbor with our whole beings.
L: Holy Spirit, Guide into all Truth:
C: Assist us in our teaching that we may joyfully bear the burden of the unlearned and ignorant; help us share our insight without putting on airs; cause us to learn without envy and recrimination; endow us with patience and skill to communicate Your truth.
L: Father of pity, Son of compassionate suffering, Spirit of consolation and courage:
C: Remember in mercy the sick and dying, the suffering and persecuted, the fearful and distraught, the bored and despairing. By Your goodness relieve all according to their needs and fortify them to trust You as Father.
L: Son of Righteousness:
C: Take the side of the oppressed, guard the chastity of our young, curb the sinners in their way, restore the fallen, and turn all hearts to receive Your righteous judgment.
L: Source and End of our salvation:
C: Convert to Yourself those who hate You; arouse those who have become dull towards You; enlighten those who have blinded their eyes to You; strengthen those who trust You;
guide those who seek you.
L: I believe that God has made me and all creatures:
C: Teach me, O my Maker, to look upon my person and my abilities as Your gifts so that I may trust Your care for me, so that I may be delivered from jealousy and envy, so that I may see You hidden in my neighbor and there serve You with gladness To You, generous Father, I offer thanks and praise, honor, and glory.
L: I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord:
C: By Your cross, gracious Lord, crucify in me all evil desires and unbelief; by Your unspotted righteousness, gracious Lord, bedeck me in Your own Self that I may be delivered to God forever; by Your service to fallen people, gracious Lord, lead me to serve You among the fallen of the earth; by Your glorious resurrection from the dead, gracious Lord, Raise me to live with You forever.
L: I believe in the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life:
C: Creator Spirit, raise me up anew by confidence in your daily and rich forgiveness of my sins; Creator Spirit, bind me in unity of love with Your saintly community; Creator Spirit, enlighten my eyes to see the saints You have made in Your congregation; Creator Spirit, quicken in me the lively anticipation of my resurrection from the dead.
L: Blessed Lord, Who has caused the Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
C: Speak to us; we are listening; strengthen us in our need.
L: Blessed Lord, Who has taken us into the death and resurrection of Your Son in our baptism:
C: Make our whole lives a living from and returning to that Holy Font.
L: Blessed Lord, Who, nourishing us on the body and blood of Christ, Creates us into a new community:
C: Make us to be indeed the body of Christ and the vehicle of love and joy in this world until we offer the full and perfect praise forever. Amen.