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5/5/24 Deacon’s Corner

Why do we pray “Lord, have mercy” at the beginning of Mass?  We do so to acknowledge our sinfulness and ask God for forgiveness.  This is part of the Penitential Rite which has different forms depending on which option the priest wants to use.  Some form of the penitential rite has been part of the Mass from the very beginning of Christian worship. One form is the Confiteor (which is Latin for “I confess”) when we pray “I confess to Almighty God…that I have greatly sinned.  In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”. The Confiteor we use today is a shortened version of the original.  The other form is the Tropes, short proclamations about why God came into the world as Jesus, God with skin, to save us from a life of sin.  No matter which form is used, both end with the people asking God to have mercy on them.


The word “mercy” in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos.  This word has the same root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil.  Olive oil was gently rubbed into wounds to sooth and comfort and help in healing.    The Hebrew word for mercy is hessed, which means steadfast love.  The Greek words we pray at Mass for “Lord, have mercy” are “Kyrie, eleison” meaning “Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.”   Therefore, mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and compassion for His suffering children. So, the next time we respond “Lord, have mercy” at Mass, may we say it with a certain humility and hopeful reverence knowing that God is listening, and He will respond.


Deacon John

Adapted from the writings of Fr. Anthony Coniaris



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