Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Rum , Rome and Royalism: Lord Have Mercy

Rum , Rome and Royalism

I would much rather belong to a church five centuries behind the times and majestically indifferent to the fact than to a church five minutes behind the times, frantically running to catch up.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Lord Have Mercy

The Traditional Roman Liturgy is all in Latin, with two exceptions. Once exception, obviously enough, is the sermon, always delivered in the language of the peole. The other exception comes towards the begining of the liturgy and is in Ancient Greek.

The words are quite simple, Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) said three times, Christe eleison (Christ, have mercy) said three times followed by Kyrie eleison three more times. These eighteen words show the influence of the our eastern bretheren on the way we western types worship, and not just by the language.

One notable point is the repetition. A friend of mine once noted an importance difference between the Greek and Latin minds has to do with austerity versus repetion. Latin poetry, latin rhetoric, latin buildings have a certain austerity about them, the greeks tend to be more florid and repertitious. Following this pattern, the traditional latin liturgy tends to be very simple, if something is repetative, there's a good chance that we are seeing a Greek influence (although the Greek influence often reached the latin liturgy via the ancient french liturgies). Of course, the patern of the repetition here is also signifigant, three groups of three, the number of the trinity multiplied by its self.

These thoughts were brought to mind by my good friend Magdalen. Mags has had some great stuff on her blog recently, but what really got me were her words in this post. Mags wrote:

"I don't even know what to pray for any more. I guess, just 'help'. Help her. Help me. I don't even know what it is we need help with. Just help.'Lord have mercy' really is the purest prayer. It kind of covers all possible bases, doesn't it?

So, I guess, Lord have Mercy."

This put my finger on something that has played on my mind for a while. Most Western Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, would tend to associate the words "Lord, have mercy" with prayers of confession not so our Eastern friends. Take a look at the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysotom, the main form of the Byzantine Liturgy, which is used by the Orthodox as well as several rites of the Catholic Church. That simple phrase is repeated time and time again, in response to a large number of petitions, most of them not linked to the confession of sins. Indeed, it has been said that Kyrie eleison is the basic prayer of Byzantine/Greek spirituality.

So, Kyrie eleison, and thanks, Magdalen for much food for thought.