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Author Topic: Saying: 'Lord have mercy'. What is the reason for this?  (Read 2448 times) Average Rating: 0
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Liz
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« on: November 09, 2009, 06:37:12 PM »

Didn't know quite where else to post this!

I've noticed of course that the Orthodox say, 'Lord have mercy' in response to a huge variety of prayers. In particular, this seems to be a good response even to prayers that express thanks, and those that express anger. Initially I thought that asking God to have mercy primarily assumed that the recipient of the prayer was more than usually guilty! So I wondered, what is the reason behind this expression? Is it simply that we all need mercy? And are expressions like those I was brought up with (eg. 'God be with you') considered wrong, or less correct?

I know this sounds like a trivial thread - I am really interested in praxis not belief, but don't feel you can't bring the heavy faith issues if they are relevant here. I want to know what you all think.

Thanks all,

Liz
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2009, 06:43:09 PM »

Didn't know quite where else to post this!

I've noticed of course that the Orthodox say, 'Lord have mercy' in response to a huge variety of prayers. In particular, this seems to be a good response even to prayers that express thanks, and those that express anger. Initially I thought that asking God to have mercy primarily assumed that the recipient of the prayer was more than usually guilty! So I wondered, what is the reason behind this expression? Is it simply that we all need mercy? And are expressions like those I was brought up with (eg. 'God be with you') considered wrong, or less correct?

I know this sounds like a trivial thread - I am really interested in praxis not belief, but don't feel you can't bring the heavy faith issues if they are relevant here. I want to know what you all think.

Thanks all,

Liz

Good questions. I have developed a habit of saying "Lord, have mercy" whenever someone asks me to pray for him or her. But when someone shares good news, I say, rather, "Glory to God."
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2009, 06:48:32 PM »

"Lord have mercy" sums up every prayer since everything we receive from God is thanks to His Infinite Mercy.
Even the Heavens are impure before God, so even the Angels need His Mercy. Even our existence is dependent on the Mercy of God.
The Greek word for mercy sounds very much like the word for "olive oil" ("elaion"), and this is how we view the Mercy of God- as a healing and strengthening oil eminating from God rather than a judicial view of pardoning offenses.
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2009, 06:49:11 PM »

A partial reason is derived from the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee where the humble Publican asks God to have Mercy on him as a sinner (also basis for the Jesus Prayer).  The Parable can be found in Luke 18:9-14.

Wikipedia mentions an earlier reference to 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NKJV)

Quote
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
      For His mercy endures forever.
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2009, 06:50:29 PM »

Prayers that express anger?

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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2009, 06:58:15 PM »

The mercy of God is our healing.  We are asking him to heal us.
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2009, 06:59:38 PM »

sorry ozgeorge, I see you already made this point.
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2009, 07:11:56 PM »

sorry ozgeorge, I see you already made this point.
Don't apologize! Proclaim God's mercy!
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« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2009, 07:18:24 PM »

Isn't it because it comes from the Liturgy?
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« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2009, 07:19:11 PM »

sorry ozgeorge, I see you already made this point.
Don't apologize! Proclaim God's mercy!

It's a beautiful point, and beautifully made. Thanks both! I am one of those who think in visual terms so the idea of the healing oil is very strong for me - although it's good to know that 'Glory to God' is also an acceptable prayer.

Thanks all.

Would you consider the prayer, 'God be with you to be' rather redundant, then? Or incorrect?

L
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« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2009, 07:19:44 PM »


Initially I thought that asking God to have mercy primarily assumed that the recipient of the prayer was more than usually guilty!

Well, we understand God's mercy as being related to more than just the world of sin. As a matter of fact, the very act of Creation is understood as a mercy of God. So is His bestowing of the sanctifying grace upon humanity before the Fall so that we could surpass our limited nature that would have been otherwise bound to death.
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« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2009, 07:20:37 PM »


"Lord have mercy" sums up every prayer since everything we receive from God is thanks to His Infinite Mercy.
Even the Heavens are impure before God, so even the Angels need His Mercy. Even our existence is dependent on the Mercy of God.
The Greek word for mercy sounds very much like the word for "olive oil" ("elaion"), and this is how we view the Mercy of God- as a healing and strengthening oil eminating from God rather than a judicial view of pardoning offenses.

Oh, wow. You explained the point a lot better.
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« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2009, 07:24:58 PM »

I have thought about this before, knowing that I must be thinking of "mercy" in the wrong way, because I was primarily thinking of it from the perspective that it means "Lord, relent."

Without having any knowledge of Greek, I just decided to look at English definitions, and I found this gem amidst the judicial uses which took primacy:

Quote
A blessing that is an act of divine favor.

I find this definition to be particularly useful, because it lacks any references to offense or leniency.  Those can be associated with mercy, but for the Orthodox Christian they do not indicate its primary function.

So in reality, a better translation of the prayer than "Lord, relent" might be "Lord, give your blessing."

Also, remember that "Lord, have mercy" is merely a translation of "Kyrie Eleison", one of the most ancient Christian prayers.  It is in all Christian liturgies worldwide.  It is the universal Christian cry.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2009, 07:27:18 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2009, 07:49:02 PM »

sorry ozgeorge, I see you already made this point.
Don't apologize! Proclaim God's mercy!

It's a beautiful point, and beautifully made. Thanks both! I am one of those who think in visual terms so the idea of the healing oil is very strong for me - although it's good to know that 'Glory to God' is also an acceptable prayer.

Thanks all.

Would you consider the prayer, 'God be with you to be' rather redundant, then? Or incorrect?

L

It may redundant but I don't believe it can ever be incorrect. Besides, "Lord have mercy" is a rather weak translation and to most folks has the connotation of asking God for forgiveness and nothing more. The Slavic word "pomiluy" is much closer to the Greek "eleison" and captures God's infinite mercy and love and is also visually richer: it asks to me enveloped by His mercy and love and to be forgiven and be healed at the same time.
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« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2009, 08:13:56 PM »

Didn't know quite where else to post this!

I've noticed of course that the Orthodox say, 'Lord have mercy' in response to a huge variety of prayers. In particular, this seems to be a good response even to prayers that express thanks, and those that express anger. Initially I thought that asking God to have mercy primarily assumed that the recipient of the prayer was more than usually guilty! So I wondered, what is the reason behind this expression? Is it simply that we all need mercy? And are expressions like those I was brought up with (eg. 'God be with you') considered wrong, or less correct?

I know this sounds like a trivial thread - I am really interested in praxis not belief, but don't feel you can't bring the heavy faith issues if they are relevant here. I want to know what you all think.

Thanks all,

Liz

Ozgeorge gave an excellent summary, as have a few others.  I'd like to add that "Lord, have mercy," in addition to imploring His great Mercy on us for healing, forgiveness, joy, peace, health, and salvation, is an excellent (awesome, really) summary of the Orthodox prayer of the heart (the hesychast prayer / The Jesus Prayer) - Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  It acknowledges throughout our lives that we are totally dependent on God for our lives, and for our salvation - and it does so in the most simple way.  It is by far the most common prayer in Orthodoxy, and thankfully is the most helpful, useful.  It is "thanks" and "help" rolled together - and when we are in danger, the most direct, brief prayer is what will be remembered.
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« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2009, 09:22:53 PM »


"Lord have mercy" is actually a shortened form of the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner" when prayed for yourself, or "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon your servant, N." when prayed for another. It's a very versatile prayer, and a cornerstone to Orthodox spirituality.
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« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2009, 12:47:38 PM »

Thanks everyone who replied! So many good interpretations of such a short phrase, I like it  Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2009, 02:34:21 AM »

ozgeorge wrote:

"The Greek word for mercy sounds very much like the word for "olive oil" ("elaion"), and this is how we view the Mercy of God- as a healing and strengthening oil eminating from God rather than a judicial view of pardoning offenses."

So maybe one way to render this into English would be: O God, salve me!  Grin
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2009, 02:40:17 AM »

ozgeorge wrote:

"The Greek word for mercy sounds very much like the word for "olive oil" ("elaion"), and this is how we view the Mercy of God- as a healing and strengthening oil eminating from God rather than a judicial view of pardoning offenses."

So maybe one way to render this into English would be: O God, salve me!  Grin

Hmm well we wouldn't want to stretch the olive oil analogy too far...lest we be deprived of grace every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year (except for fast-free periods), and during the four canonical fast periods of Great Lent, Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast, and Dormition Fast!  Grin
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« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2009, 03:06:29 AM »

ozgeorge wrote:

"The Greek word for mercy sounds very much like the word for "olive oil" ("elaion"), and this is how we view the Mercy of God- as a healing and strengthening oil eminating from God rather than a judicial view of pardoning offenses."

So maybe one way to render this into English would be: O God, salve me!  Grin

 Cheesy
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« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2009, 03:09:00 AM »

I've noticed of course that the Orthodox say, 'Lord have mercy' in response to a huge variety of prayers.

Doesn't the Anglican mass contain the Kyrie?
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« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2009, 05:08:07 PM »

Would you consider the prayer, 'God be with you to be' rather redundant, then? Or incorrect?

L

No, and I have had priests say "God bless you" or "God be with you" as a form of a blessing to me. Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2009, 05:21:43 PM »

Forgive me if this reveals my ignorance, but I look on our praying "Lord, have mercy," as a way of asking God to help us in whatever way He sees fit without trying to strong arm him with our own will. 
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