The above words follow immediately after the Invocation of the Trinity in the Great Litany. They are what is known as a “obsecration,” or earnest pleading. In it, we pray God not to remember sins, pleading that the consequences of our sins will not be visited on us. Henry Purcell, the great 17th Century Anglican composer, set the 1662 version of the text to music; it is a haunting and profound meditation on this masterpiece of prayer.
In this portion of the Litany, we in effect ask God to forget. Joining with the Psalmist in Psalm 51, we cry out: “in your compassion, blot out our offenses.” We, who are burdened by the present effects of our sin, our lost opportunities for holiness, plead with God to lift from us all the unbearable horror of this oppressive weight.