Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The beginning parts of mass are called the introductory rites. We always start off acknowledging our sins and asking God for mercy and pardon, we do this in the pentitential rite, and in the Kyrie.

I once heard a joke about an old lady who was lamenting all the changes to the mass and the movement away from Latin. She complained that the only part they said in Latin nowadays was the Kyrie. Ha ha ha!

If you don't get the joke, it might help to know that the Kyrie is not Latin but Greek. ;-)

The priest (or cantor if being sung) says, and we respond with the following:

Priest: Kyrie, eleison. All: Kyrie, eleison.
Priest: Christe, eleison. All: Christe, eleison.
Priest: Kyrie, eleison. All: Kyrie, eleison.

It is sometimes said in the vernacular as well, in English the translation is:

Priest: Lord, have mercy. All: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: Christ, have mercy. All: Christ, have mercy.
Priest: Lord, have mercy. All: Lord, have mercy.

There are some beautiful musical versions of the Kyrie in sacred pieces and masses composed. I remember in my music history class in college learning about early sacred music, and at the same time outside of school learning about Catholicism and the mass. I remember realizing that all these sounds (which I always found beautiful) that I had known in some of my favorite pieces were actually prayers of the mass. Since then, my absolute favorite pieces of music are sacred music, especially now that I know what words are being said in these prayers being sung.

For instance, here is the Kyrie from Mozart's Mass in C minor. Can anyone listen to this, know the meaning of the words, really internalize those words, make them their own, and NOT be moved to tears? It's the music of angels.

And for my fellow children of the 80s, remember this song? Turns out Mr. Mister wasn't saying "Carrying a laser" after all, lol.

Have mercy on me, LORD; see how my foes afflict me! You alone can raise me from the gates of death. (Ps 9:14)

And as Jesus passed from thence, there followed him two blind men crying out and saying, Have mercy on us, O Son of David. (Matt 9:27)

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. (Matt 15:22)

And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. (Luke 17:13)

No comments: