Kyrie: Lord Have Mercy

From an Armenian Illuminated Manuscript, Malnazar, 1637-1638, Tempura colors, gold paint and gold leaf on parchment.
9.92 x 7.2 inches. Image Source

Brightly colored, richly ornamented, these golden pages are intended to guide the viewer into a more reflective state of mind. To slow down and even pause so that one might breathe in and out… As you let your eyes travel around the image you become fully present in the moment.

What do you do to prepare for a time of devotion or worship of our God? If you are like me, you are always rush rush rushing to make it into your pew before the down beat of services and then my mind is so distracted at times…

But letting go of all that…learning to be compassionate with myself…I begin again by reminding myself to just breathe more slowly and try to imagine coming before the throne of God.

This post will begin a series of posts where I plan to explore the 5 parts of the Mass. Since I am first and foremost a music teacher, I know that an exploration of the Mass will be a very rich topic. Rich because there are dozens of composers who have written music for the Mass.

Palestrina, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Bruckner, Rutter, Bernstein and many many more. These posts will endeavor to explore the meaning of each of the 5 parts of the Mass and give you scripture, text and musical examples to bring them closer to home. As always, it is my intent to learn from other faith traditions so that I might open another window into a fuller communion with God.

Kyrie Eleison

The Kyrie is the first section of the Mass and is simple stating: Kyrie Eleison 3x, Christe Eleison 3x, Kyrie Eleison 3x. Which lends itself well to a 3 part ABA format. This then becomes 3 x 3=9 which equals the 9 choirs of Angels. (Note: must write future blog on 9 choirs of angels.)

From the very beginning of the Mass we are whisked up to stand before the very throne of God.

Lord Have Mercy

Christ Have Mercy

Lord Have Mercy

I then wondered about where this form of petition came from? I was amazed to find that there are several references to the phrase “Lord have mercy” that run all the way through the Bible.

It is used many times in Psalm 6:2, 9:13, 31:9, 86:3 and 123:3

I lift up my eyes to you , to who sit enthroned in heaven…Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt.”

Psalm 123: 1 & 3

Two blind men used it as they called out to Jesus for help

Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’

Matthew 20:30

The story of the healing of the Canaanite Women’s daughter

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Matthew 15: 22

And the story Jesus told of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

But the tax collector stood a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner…For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18: 13-14b

In light of these passages, I began to see how important and time honored the phrase “Lord have mercy” really has been through the ages.

I have picked out 3 musical examples for the Kyrie part of the mass. I hope you will spend a little time with all 3 and maybe let me know which is your favorite.

  1. Kyrie from Mass No. 2 in G Major by Franz Schubert (for the simple purity of how the melody unfolds. Imagine it as a beautiful prayer in the quiet of a tranquil morning.

2. Kyrie from Great Mass in C minor K. 427 by W.A. Mozart (Just the first 6 min of this video is the Kyrie, notice how Mozart has the brass float out above the strings. There is much more drama in this work. The soloist is amazing for her range of emotions, pitches and dynamics.)

3. Mercy Now written and performed by Mary Gauthier. (This is a more popular folk style but I think she has the voice of a poet that really touches the heart of the matter. We can find pieces of ourselves in her words of wisdom.)

What is your favorite Kyrie?

Do you ever use the phrase Lord Have Mercy when you pray?

Thanks for reading and May God’s blessings me upon you this week!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Elaine says:

    Thanks Jennifer for this beautiful devotion. It had been a busy day but I stopped, sat in my deck and just soaked in your message, art, and music. It was the best part of my day. My favorite music was the folk song: What a beautiful message and prayer for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and have a little quiet desk time. I LOVE that!. I really really liked that folk song as well. I am learning at lot as I go along. It is always an eye opener for me so I am glad that you found it beautiful as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.