Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kýrie, eléison

Kýrie, eléison
Christé, eléison
Kýrie, eléison

Singing in the boys choir at Tolentine’s in the Bronx, the “Kýrie” hymn was a weekly ritual. The words seemed to lift themselves into the rafters, drifting toward heaven. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.


I don’t remember hearing many homilies on this topic, though. It’s not a word that comes up in conversation much these days, whether in church or out. Instead, we talk a lot about mercy’s close cousin… forgiveness. Forgive me, Lord. Forgive and forget. Forgive your enemies. Can you forgive me? Before you pray, forgive. You need to forgive yourself. I will never forgive you! Without forgiveness, there is no future.

Mercy? That’s just for criminals, right?

I like forgiveness. You’re not looking for anything tangible… you just want to feel better. As wiki says, forgiveness is typically defined as the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger for a perceived offense.

The bible talks a lot about forgiveness. And if you look at what may be the most-quoted story of forgiveness, the Prodigal Son, you see that the “wrong doer” in this case is not looking for anything tangible… he just wants everyone to feel better.

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men. Luke 15: 18-19

Mercy? That’s not about feelings… it’s more of a transaction.

This distinction came to bear this morning as I was reading from the Gospel of Luke. Mary had just gone to see her cousin Elizabeth, and she sings a song or praise to the Lord… including this verse:

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
Luke 1:50

I probably pray for God’s forgiveness daily. But can count on one hand the times I have asked for God’s mercy. I kind of expect that the “day-to-day sins” will simply be swept under the rug… kind of an automatic. It’s only when I’m really defiant that I begin to fear my maker. Most days, I take God’s mercy for granted… while in fact I probably should be trembling much more.


Anonymous said...

some things to think about here.
i usually am thanking God for His mercy and forgetting to ask for it.


thanks for this eye opening post.

Kansas Bob said...

This is so weird Ed.. for the last week I have been thinking about MY need for mercy. I find myself saying daily.. Lord be merciful to me.. Lord I need your mercy.. maybe I am finally coming to the end of my rope.

I enjoyed your post.. I like what you said about mercy being the cousin of forgiveness.

As I was reading I was reminded how Jesus told the religious guys to go find out what God means when He says "I desire mercy (or compassion) and not sacrifice".

Maybe mercy is something that we can learn?

Blessings, Bob

NoVA Dad said...

In his book "Wishful Thinking," Frederick Buechner has this to say about forgiveness:

"'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' Jesus is not saying that God's forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that's conditional isn't really forgiveness at all, just Fair Warning; and in the second place, our unforgivingness is among those things about us which we need to have God forgive us most. What Jesus apparently is saying is that the pride which keeps us from forgiving is the same pride which keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something abou it."

Great topic; thanks for posting.

Ed G. said...

nAncyY, thanks for the encouragement.

K-Bob... thank you for adding to the conversation... and for some reason, I think there's a lot of twine left in your bucket!

Matt... loved your comment, thanks!