By the mystery of Thy holy incarnation; By Thy holy nativity; By Thy baptism, fasting, and temptation; By Thine agony and bloody sweat; By Thy cross and Passion; By Thy precious death and burial; By Thy glorious resurrection and ascension; And by the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter: Help us, good Lord.
Such is our Lenten prayer. Such is the summary of what Christ came to do. Yet this is not some down-in-the-dumps or depressing sort of list. This is not something that should cause us to wail, or bemoan these most holy and blessed deeds. This prayer is not something that is just prayed in Lent, but it is the constant prayer of the Church: an Easter prayer, an Advent prayer, a Christmas prayer, but most assuredly it is a Lenten prayer.
It is not a sad Lenten prayer, but a joyous one! Because the reason these works and actions of Christ can help us is simply because he did them for you! Not only you, but the whole world. Everything Christ did Christmas to Pentecost and everything in between and afterward was all for you.
Today we commemorate St. Patrick; it is not simply about green beverages, rivers, leprechauns, and four-leaf clovers, but it is about this Litany prayer. It is about St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland, by preaching this litany prayer. He preached all these deeds of Jesus done for the people of Ireland. He preached a baptism that gave to them all this, even eternal life.
St. Patrick still preaches to us today. His voice is still clearly heard:
I bind this day to me forever,
By pow’r of faith, Christ’s incarnation,
His Baptism in the Jordan River,
His cross of death for my salvation.
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heav’nly way,
His coming at the day of doom,
I bind unto myself today. (LSB 604:2).
This preaching to us removes all the snakes from our life. Such baptism removes the reign of that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan. Such baptism removes the snakes of sin, their sting, their guilt; such baptism removes death and its sting. The message of St. Patrick reminds us that the cross on our foreheads is not just the cross of Christ, but the whole life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is a Lenten message as well. St. Patrick and the Litany all tell us the same thing: “Rejoice! Christ did all these things for you.” What joy, especially in Lent. Thus we can rejoice with St. Patrick, the Litany in this “rejoice week.” Singing out with ever more joy:
Then, for all that wrought my pardon,
For Thy sorrows deep and sore,
For Thine anguish in the Garden,
I will thank Thee evermore,
Thank Thee for Thy groaning, sighing,
For Thy bleeding and Thy dying,
For that last triumphant cry,
And shall praise Thee, Lord, on high. (LSB 420:7).