Kyrie, Eleison / Lord, Have Mercy

Kyrie eleison (KI-ree-ay ay-LAY-ee-zonn) or “Lord, have mercy” is a short prayer that is important in Christian worship. It is a prayer from the heart about human need. God owes us nothing. Everything he gives comes from his mercy. 

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Original in Greek:

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Some worship traditions translate Kyrie eleison as “Lord, have mercy.” Some leave it untranslated as is done for words like “Amen” and “Alleluia.”

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison are the first words in the main part of the Divine Service, either as a cry of repentance or as a prayer for God’s mercy in all aspects of life.

Kyrie.png
The Threefold Kyrie, tune from Luther’s German Mass with English Text. Book of Hymns (WELS, 1920, 1931)

The second use, as a prayer for God’s mercy in all aspects of life, often includes Kyrie eleison or” Lord, have mercy” as a response in a litany that brings the requests for the Lord to have mercy.  See “Help, Save, Have Mercy on Us” for such a responsive Kyrie prayer that has a very long history.

In Matins (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer) Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison or their translation appear in some form at the end of the service before the Lord’s Prayer.

As short as the Kyrie is, it has been set to music, both as the short Kyrie, and as a Kyrie with extended petitions.

Here it is from Bach’s Mass in B Minor:

Here it is in German, known to English-speaking Lutherans as “Kyrie, God, Father in heaven above”:

Here it is as a responsive litany, sung by pastor and people. Text uses some of the petitions from “Help, Save, Have Mercy on Us” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). (Video and audio quality aren’t the best, but the performance was led by Regina H. Fryxell, who was the composer / arranger.)  Here the Kyrie is followed by the Gloria.

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pastorstratman

Lutheran pastor serving St. Stephen's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

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