In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.
After the previous petitions, wherein we pray God’s deliverance through the grace made known in the sacred mysteries of our Christian faith, the Litany now concludes this section with one final petition to God—this time recalling our need for God’s deliverance in the ups and downs of our earthly pilgrimage, at the final moments of our life, and at the Last Great Day. In one short phrase the Great Litany manages to combine our daily existence with eternity. This is called eschatology: the spiritual consideration of “the last things” and their impact on the now.
To begin with, the words of this petition—like baptismal and marriage vows—point out that life is necessarily filled with joys and sorrows, times of prosperity and tribulation. We do not seek escape from these variations in life; rather, we pray that God will be palpably present with us throughout the journey. When we are in tribulation, we desperately need God; when we in prosperity, we need God as much! Reaching out to God is much easier when we are in trouble; yet without God in the “good times,” we grow arrogant and complacent. Measuring our life in its current state against this petition is, by itself, a spiritually-nourishing practice.
The petition concludes by emphasizing our finitude—the fact that we are by nature limited and impermanent. By putting us on the edge of eternity itself (the hour of death and the day of judgment), we are encouraged to see our true position in the scheme of Creation: as a priestly people with a mission to embody the Gospel in our thoughts, words, and actions. The rest of the Litany with its many intercessions for the world and its needs is based on that knowledge of who we are, where we stand, and the cosmic scope of our concern.