On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I am reflecting on the phrase “Kyrie Ellison” often translated as “Lord have Mercy.” This is one of the great prayers of the ancient church which continues to be a part of Christian worship until this day.
In Koine Greek the word Eleison meant but just mercy as we think of it, but a total restoration of society. To pray Kyrie Eleison was to ask God to come into your community and to set every area of life in order. This prayer asked God to restore relationships, repair economies, break poverty, and rectify disparity.
It’s very similar to the Hebrew word shalom, which is often translated as “peace.”
In Constantinople, when the people heard Kyrie Eleison they joined the procession of worship to the great church, Hagia Sophia, to be reminded of what God had done, was doing, and promised to do through Jesus. They wanted to participate in it! They also brought food and other gifts to participate in making that mercy real in the lives of those in need. Deacons would receive these gifts and would use them to care for those in need in the community
Sometimes I wish there were Kyrie Eleison processions in my city. I think that would be a great reminder for me that the Gospel is big enough to impact every part of my life and everything that I do. May God’s mercy truly impact my whole life and my whole world.