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Author Topic: What Do We Mean When We Pray, "Lord have mercy!"?  (Read 1729 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: April 05, 2010, 09:30:01 PM »

I hear "Lord have Mercy"... endlessly and yet few Orthodox would even admit that we need to ask this from a Loving God. St. Seraphim of Sarov knelt for 'years' on bloodly knees yet few Orthodox would look at this as anything but masochism. 'True' mortification 'must' proceed dispassion, so the two are not antithetical of one another.

Considering that my priest has based his homilies on God's love for us three weeks in a row, I am really scratching my head on this disparaging remark. Orthodoxy speaks constantly of God's love for us, and how He, like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, is waiting for us with open arms to embrace us and slay the fatted calf in celebration of our repentance.

Furthermore, St. Seraphim did not kneel for 1000 days on a rock to try to prove some point. He did it out of sincere love, repentance, and humility.

I'm really not sure why everyone has decided to attack this humble man who never hurt anyone, even when he himself was attacked.  Huh
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2010, 11:27:37 PM »

I hear "Lord have Mercy"... endlessly and yet few Orthodox would even admit that we need to ask this from a Loving God. St. Seraphim of Sarov knelt for 'years' on bloodly knees yet few Orthodox would look at this as anything but masochism. 'True' mortification 'must' proceed dispassion, so the two are not antithetical of one another.

Considering that my priest has based his homilies on God's love for us three weeks in a row, I am really scratching my head on this disparaging remark. Orthodoxy speaks constantly of God's love for us, and how He, like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, is waiting for us with open arms to embrace us and slay the fatted calf in celebration of our repentance.

Furthermore, St. Seraphim did not kneel for 1000 days on a rock to try to prove some point. He did it out of sincere love, repentance, and humility.

I'm really not sure why everyone has decided to attack this humble man who never hurt anyone, even when he himself was attacked.  Huh

If, as many Orthodox hear argue, our damnation is brought upon us by ourselves... 'why ask God for mercy?' If God is simply this benign by stander, why are we asking for mercy?
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« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2010, 11:44:29 PM »

If, as many Orthodox hear argue, our damnation is brought upon us by ourselves... 'why ask God for mercy?' If God is simply this benign by stander, why are we asking for mercy?

Because God's mercy is like a salve healing our wounds. We bring damnation upon ourselves when we don't ask for His mercy, when we don't repent of our sins.

Just as a Hospital cannot cure those who do not enter its doors, God cannot save those who do not ask for healing. Nowhere in Orthodox theology is God seen as some Cosmic Cop in the sky damning whomever He wishes. God is willing to save and help anyone; we just have to ask for it.

For you to project that Orthodox Christians perceive God as unloving or unmerciful simply because you are unfamiliar with our theology is wrong. If you took the time to read through the Orthodox prayer books and Orthodox service books, you would see that we believe God is a loving God who loves all of His creation, and He "wishes not the death of the sinner, but rather that he repents and live."

If the Orthodox Church believed God was unloving, what would be the point of offering the life giving and healing mysteries of Holy Baptism, Chrismation, Communion, and Unction?

I just find it completely perplexing that you have this perception that we believe God is unloving, when our services, our hymns, and our prayers, say quite the opposite. If you are basing your opinion of Orthodoxy solely on this internet forum, then I strongly suggest you get over to an Orthodox Church. I know Fr. John at Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Richmond would be quick to not only tell you, but show you how loving our God truly is.

I don't know what impression this forum has given you of Orthodoxy, but please don't let this microcosm influence you into thinking all Orthodox people are like the individuals on this forum, or that this forum is even a true representation of Orthodox praxis. To be fair in judging the Church one must "come and see" for oneself.
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« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2010, 11:51:36 PM »


If, as many Orthodox hear argue, our damnation is brought upon us by ourselves... 'why ask God for mercy?'

An intriguing statement!  In your Church what else can possibly bring damnation on a person except himself?
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2010, 12:04:01 AM »

If, as many Orthodox hear argue, our damnation is brought upon us by ourselves... 'why ask God for mercy?' If God is simply this benign by stander, why are we asking for mercy?

Because God's mercy is like a salve healing our wounds. We bring damnation upon ourselves when we don't ask for His mercy, when we don't repent of our sins.

Just as a Hospital cannot cure those who do not enter its doors, God cannot save those who do not ask for healing. Nowhere in Orthodox theology is God seen as some Cosmic Cop in the sky damning whomever He wishes. God is willing to save and help anyone; we just have to ask for it.

For you to project that Orthodox Christians perceive God as unloving or unmerciful simply because you are unfamiliar with our theology is wrong. If you took the time to read through the Orthodox prayer books and Orthodox service books, you would see that we believe God is a loving God who loves all of His creation, and He "wishes not the death of the sinner, but rather that he repents and live."

If the Orthodox Church believed God was unloving, what would be the point of offering the life giving and healing mysteries of Holy Baptism, Chrismation, Communion, and Unction?

I just find it completely perplexing that you have this perception that we believe God is unloving, when our services, our hymns, and our prayers, say quite the opposite. If you are basing your opinion of Orthodoxy solely on this internet forum, then I strongly suggest you get over to an Orthodox Church. I know Fr. John at Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Richmond would be quick to not only tell you, but show you how loving our God truly is.

I don't know what impression this forum has given you of Orthodoxy, but please don't let this microcosm influence you into thinking all Orthodox people are like the individuals on this forum, or that this forum is even a true representation of Orthodox praxis. To be fair in judging the Church one must "come and see" for oneself.

I attend Fr. David at St. Cyprian of Carthage OCA. I've never attended St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral and I never said that 'you' believe God to be 'unloving'... I simply said that I hear 'repeatedly' Lord have Mercy and it seems to go against the idea that God is a benign by stander... asking for mercy assumes it's lack. We are asking for something we don't already have. That seems to fly in the face to the idea that God is a benign by stander.
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2010, 12:06:29 AM »

If, as many Orthodox hear argue, our damnation is brought upon us by ourselves... 'why ask God for mercy?' If God is simply this benign by stander, why are we asking for mercy?

Because God's mercy is like a salve healing our wounds. We bring damnation upon ourselves when we don't ask for His mercy, when we don't repent of our sins.

Just as a Hospital cannot cure those who do not enter its doors, God cannot save those who do not ask for healing. Nowhere in Orthodox theology is God seen as some Cosmic Cop in the sky damning whomever He wishes. God is willing to save and help anyone; we just have to ask for it.

For you to project that Orthodox Christians perceive God as unloving or unmerciful simply because you are unfamiliar with our theology is wrong. If you took the time to read through the Orthodox prayer books and Orthodox service books, you would see that we believe God is a loving God who loves all of His creation, and He "wishes not the death of the sinner, but rather that he repents and live."

If the Orthodox Church believed God was unloving, what would be the point of offering the life giving and healing mysteries of Holy Baptism, Chrismation, Communion, and Unction?

I just find it completely perplexing that you have this perception that we believe God is unloving, when our services, our hymns, and our prayers, say quite the opposite. If you are basing your opinion of Orthodoxy solely on this internet forum, then I strongly suggest you get over to an Orthodox Church. I know Fr. John at Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Richmond would be quick to not only tell you, but show you how loving our God truly is.

I don't know what impression this forum has given you of Orthodoxy, but please don't let this microcosm influence you into thinking all Orthodox people are like the individuals on this forum, or that this forum is even a true representation of Orthodox praxis. To be fair in judging the Church one must "come and see" for oneself.

I attend Fr. David at St. Cyprian of Carthage OCA. I've never attended St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral and I never said that 'you' believe God to be 'unloving'... I simply said that I hear 'repeatedly' Lord have Mercy and it seems to go against the idea that God is a benign by stander... asking for mercy assumes it's lack. We are asking for something we don't already have. That seems to fly in the face to the idea that God is a benign by stander.

Or it may have to do with the fact that God does not want us to take him for granted and that he wants us to have a proper attitude towards him.
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2010, 12:16:21 AM »


If, as many Orthodox hear argue, our damnation is brought upon us by ourselves... 'why ask God for mercy?'

An intriguing statement!  In your Church what else can possibly bring damnation on a person except himself?

Father I'm sure you are aware of First and Secondary Causality... I mean to say that our Creator made the rules in which we find ourselves damned or saved.
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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2010, 12:42:18 AM »

I attend Fr. David at St. Cyprian of Carthage OCA. I've never attended St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral and I never said that 'you' believe God to be 'unloving'... I simply said that I hear 'repeatedly' Lord have Mercy and it seems to go against the idea that God is a benign by stander... asking for mercy assumes it's lack. We are asking for something we don't already have. That seems to fly in the face to the idea that God is a benign by stander.

On the contrary! It is because we know that God is active in our lives and because He is the Physician of our souls and bodies that we ask for His mercy. What you are suggesting is the equivalent of a man dying alone in a house, and then the family blaming the doctor for his death, when the doctor never knew the man was ill.

How can God save us if we don't ask for it?

Also, I have attended Catholic masses at various times in my life. (My maternal Grandmother is Polish Catholic.) As I recall, the Catholic mass also has it's share of Litanies and requests with "Lord have mercy," "Christ have mercy" and "Grant this O Lord" as the responses. I mean, if God is so active, why is there the response "Grant this O Lord"? Also, the Catholic Mass has a special section reserved for the Kyrie. Just as the Litanies in the Catholic Liturgy do not presuppose God to be a benign bystander, so too the Orthodox Litanies also believe God is active in our lives. (I do not bring up these points to attack the Catholic Mass in any way, but rather to make a comparison.)

Why pray at all if God is so active? I mean, God is omnipotent, why bother praying?

It is because prayer is edifying for the soul. Prayer does not benefit God; it benefits us. As Papist so eloquently stated, crying out "Lord have mercy" reminds US that God is active in our lives, and that we CAN cry out to Him for mercy. He is there to provide succor, comfort, and aid.

Wikipedia actually has a fantastic explanation as to why the phrase Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) is used:

Quote from: Wikipedia
In the Eastern Christianity (including be Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic), the phrase Kýrie, eléison (Greek: Κύριε ἐλέησον) or its equivalents in other languages is the most oft-repeated phrase.

The various litanies, popular in Orthodox Christianity, generally have Lord, have mercy as their response, either singly or triply. Some petitions in these litanies will have twelve or even forty repetitions of the phrase as a response.

The phrase is the origin of the Jesus Prayer, beloved of Eastern Christians belonging to the Byzantine rite, and increasingly popular amongst Western Christians today.

The biblical roots of this prayer first appear in 1 Chronicles 16:34

...give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever...

This is key to fully understanding the Greek Kýrie, eléison. In this respect, the prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will continue to do. This prayer is refined by Christ Himself in Luke 18:9-14 (KJV) The Parable of The Publican, where we see more clearly the connection to the Jesus Prayer: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" (KJV)

The Mass/Divine Liturgy was first celebrated in Greek at Rome during the first two centuries of The Church. As Latin became the predominant language, The Mass was translated into Latin. However, the familiar and venerated prayer Kýrie, eléison was later inserted back into The Mass, replacing the latin "Domine, Miserere!"

The Greek phrase Kýrie, eléison has also been regularly and extensively used in Coptic (Egyptian) Christian churches since the early centuries of Christianity, where in liturgy both Coptic and Greek languages are used. The Coptic and Greek languages share many letters, words, and phrases, particularly in ecclesiastical contexts.

So I fail to see how "Lord have mercy" assumes that it is lacking or that God is benign.
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« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2010, 01:59:53 AM »


Some of our differences are real.  Some of them are created, such as this one.

The question always has been are those differences sufficient to sustain the sin of schism.

Christ is Risen!
Ta Criost eirithe!

 
Dear ElijahMaria,

Welcome to the Forum and your irenic approach is much appreciated.

In contradistinction to what you say above, the Russian Orthodox Church in its Millennial Statement on our relationships with other Christian confessions had this to say:

"Also unacceptable is the idea that all the divisions are essentially tragic
misunderstandings, that disagreements seem irreconcilable only because of a
lack of mutual love and a reluctance to realize that, in spite of all the
differences and dissimilarities, there is sufficient unity and harmony in
"what is most important". Our divisions cannot be reduced to human passions,
to egoism, much less to cultural, social and political circumstances which
are secondary from the Church's point of view."

http://www.mospat.ru/en/documents/attitude-to-the-non-orthodox
and
http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/ecumenical/roc_other_christian_confessions.htm

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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2010, 08:55:14 AM »


Some of our differences are real.  Some of them are created, such as this one.

The question always has been are those differences sufficient to sustain the sin of schism.

Christ is Risen!
Ta Criost eirithe!

 
Dear ElijahMaria,

Welcome to the Forum and your irenic approach is much appreciated.

In contradistinction to what you say above, the Russian Orthodox Church in its Millennial Statement on our relationships with other Christian confessions had this to say:

"Also unacceptable is the idea that all the divisions are essentially tragic
misunderstandings, that disagreements seem irreconcilable only because of a
lack of mutual love and a reluctance to realize that, in spite of all the
differences and dissimilarities, there is sufficient unity and harmony in
"what is most important". Our divisions cannot be reduced to human passions,
to egoism, much less to cultural, social and political circumstances which
are secondary from the Church's point of view."

http://www.mospat.ru/en/documents/attitude-to-the-non-orthodox
and
http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/ecumenical/roc_other_christian_confessions.htm



Dear Father Ambrose,

As I have said to you and others in other venues, the fact that there are indeed differences between and among us may or may not justify maintaining the objective sin of schism. 

Seeing a multitude of varying attitudes and opinions and distorted facts among Catholic and Orthodox believers on any number of doctrinal and liturgical issues, I have tended to take some...SOME...of these differences less and less seriously.

As you well know there is division among Orthodox hierarchs and among the laity with respect to any number of positions vis a vis the Catholic Church, while the Catholic Church putters on for better and worse paying not much attention to Orthodoxy in any event.

If I am irenic it is because in part that I've been beaten into it over the years and in another part in that I have promised to try to remain so to one who is greater than I.

EM
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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2010, 11:57:43 AM »

I attend Fr. David at St. Cyprian of Carthage OCA. I've never attended St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral and I never said that 'you' believe God to be 'unloving'... I simply said that I hear 'repeatedly' Lord have Mercy and it seems to go against the idea that God is a benign by stander... asking for mercy assumes it's lack. We are asking for something we don't already have. That seems to fly in the face to the idea that God is a benign by stander.

On the contrary! It is because we know that God is active in our lives and because He is the Physician of our souls and bodies that we ask for His mercy. What you are suggesting is the equivalent of a man dying alone in a house, and then the family blaming the doctor for his death, when the doctor never knew the man was ill.

So when you say 'Lord have Mercy' you ready don't mean to ask for mercy but alleviation from the state you find yourself... why do we find ourselves in such a state if we had such a dutiful and vigilant shepherd?

Quote
How can God save us if we don't ask for it?

A wise shepherd can lead his flock from harm without them knowing.

Quote
Also, I have attended Catholic masses at various times in my life. (My maternal Grandmother is Polish Catholic.) As I recall, the Catholic mass also has it's share of Litanies and requests with "Lord have mercy," "Christ have mercy" and "Grant this O Lord" as the responses. I mean, if God is so active, why is there the response "Grant this O Lord"? Also, the Catholic Mass has a special section reserved for the Kyrie. Just as the Litanies in the Catholic Liturgy do not presuppose God to be a benign bystander, so too the Orthodox Litanies also believe God is active in our lives. (I do not bring up these points to attack the Catholic Mass in any way, but rather to make a comparison.)

It seems to me that the Classic Roman Liturgies recognized God to be both Wrathful and Merciful. Crying out for Mercy in the Roman Tradition classically meant that we recognize our wrong doing and our rightful punishment and thus the need of God's Mercy.

Quote
Why pray at all if God is so active? I mean, God is omnipotent, why bother praying?

It is because prayer is edifying for the soul. Prayer does not benefit God; it benefits us. As Papist so eloquently stated, crying out "Lord have mercy" reminds US that God is active in our lives, and that we CAN cry out to Him for mercy. He is there to provide succor, comfort, and aid.

If God is not the source of our rightful punishment, it makes no sense to ask Him for Mercy. This sounds like we've lost all sense of what we are really saying in the Liturgies anymore.

Quote
Wikipedia actually has a fantastic explanation as to why the phrase Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) is used:

Quote from: Wikipedia
In the Eastern Christianity (including be Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic), the phrase Kýrie, eléison (Greek: Κύριε ἐλέησον) or its equivalents in other languages is the most oft-repeated phrase.

The various litanies, popular in Orthodox Christianity, generally have Lord, have mercy as their response, either singly or triply. Some petitions in these litanies will have twelve or even forty repetitions of the phrase as a response.

The phrase is the origin of the Jesus Prayer, beloved of Eastern Christians belonging to the Byzantine rite, and increasingly popular amongst Western Christians today.

The biblical roots of this prayer first appear in 1 Chronicles 16:34

...give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever...

This is key to fully understanding the Greek Kýrie, eléison. In this respect, the prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will continue to do. This prayer is refined by Christ Himself in Luke 18:9-14 (KJV) The Parable of The Publican, where we see more clearly the connection to the Jesus Prayer: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" (KJV)

The Mass/Divine Liturgy was first celebrated in Greek at Rome during the first two centuries of The Church. As Latin became the predominant language, The Mass was translated into Latin. However, the familiar and venerated prayer Kýrie, eléison was later inserted back into The Mass, replacing the latin "Domine, Miserere!"

The Greek phrase Kýrie, eléison has also been regularly and extensively used in Coptic (Egyptian) Christian churches since the early centuries of Christianity, where in liturgy both Coptic and Greek languages are used. The Coptic and Greek languages share many letters, words, and phrases, particularly in ecclesiastical contexts.

So I fail to see how "Lord have mercy" assumes that it is lacking or that God is benign.

It seems to me that we are attempting to rationalize our cries to a God who rightfully punishes injustice and unrighteousness for some benign God who is an innocent by-stander witnessing our own suffering. This seems to remind me of Buddhist Karma as it is the natural consequences of our own behavior and not the effects of God's will. We seem to have 'removed', as much as we can, any blame to be found on God for our state of affairs. Even in Buddhism, one must ask 'why' does the whole system behave in such a way? Why is it that we are bound to sin? Why did Jesus 'have' to return to renew our condition... and hit the restart button? Do we even worship the same God as the very early Christians worshiped? Sometimes I think we don't.
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« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2010, 12:41:14 PM »

The tragedy of our lives seems to be not that God has forgotten us but that we have forgotten God. And in this forgetting we do not feel our sin, we do not think that we hurt God by sinning. We surely lack a comprehension that we disappoint God. We do not feel the warm breath of God on our flesh, or hear the weeping of our souls and the gentle Holy Spirit’s weeping too. We do not see His countenance fall, the divine expression of loss, when we betray Him.

We have been given wonderful gifts by God, our God. We have been given life, and the possibility of receiving fountains of living water, the fresh splash of joy and peace in fellowship with God. We have been given abilities, friends, all of the beautiful creation. We have been given divine sonship in God’s eternal Son, that even as He became one of us we might become one like Him, a God by grace, and sit down next to God in an everlasting life of blessings and bliss. But all this we have wasted. We have allowed ourselves to be swallowed up by the dark lakes of depression which flood us with feelings of sloth and bitterness. We have given our hearts to ponder the poison of self-love, of pride, and like spoiled fruit on the tree we sour away. We have failed to see the beauty and wonder God has surrounded us with. And so we have not been worthy of being made in the image and likeness of God. We have received the earth as a lush field, well watered and bearing a bounty that is ripe and sweet. We have received Eden, but we have made it a desert. We have been content with far less, with comfort and luxury, than God has been wanting to give us, a spiritual, boundless, endless rapture of luminous life and love, in fellowship with Him, in His very depths. We have given up a destiny of paradise, a paradise where the love of the Holy Trinity would be met by the priestly love of the adoring man, where the
Creator and the creature would be as one, where all is in all.

If we should come to feel all this we would not be irritated by the “Lord Have Mercy” repeated so many times. We would find that tears would be washing our faces, the balm of the Holy Spirit, the baptism into His marvelous light, that gives our hearts wings so that our souls might fly with the Seraphim and exchange the kiss of peace with the Mother of God and with all His saints, in
whom He is pleased to dwell. We would want only to please God, to see His joy at our coming, to hear Him call out our names in a tone of affection and friendship, to hear Him testify before the Father and in the court of the New Jerusalem where all the hosts of the righteous stand in victory at the foot of the throne of glory, that we belong to Him, that our lives were to Him as a sweet smelling fragrance. We would hate our sin.

The Church is intimately in Love with her Lord. She forever yearns to be worthy of His Love. She is forever amazed at His steadfast love. And so she says over and over again, “Lord Have Mercy?’ To the extent that we enter into this consciousness and truly experience the fact that God loves us, then we will understand that nothing we say, do, think, or desire will ever be enough, that no prayer, praise, or petition directed to God is ever enough for the God that is too much!
http://www.antiochian.org/Orthodox_Church_Who_What_Where_Why/Why_do_we_say_Lord_Have_Mercy.htm

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« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2010, 01:20:13 PM »

The tragedy of our lives seems to be not that God has forgotten us but that we have forgotten God. And in this forgetting we do not feel our sin, we do not think that we hurt God by sinning. We surely lack a comprehension that we disappoint God. We do not feel the warm breath of God on our flesh, or hear the weeping of our souls and the gentle Holy Spirit’s weeping too. We do not see His countenance fall, the divine expression of loss, when we betray Him.

We have been given wonderful gifts by God, our God. We have been given life, and the possibility of receiving fountains of living water, the fresh splash of joy and peace in fellowship with God. We have been given abilities, friends, all of the beautiful creation. We have been given divine sonship in God’s eternal Son, that even as He became one of us we might become one like Him, a God by grace, and sit down next to God in an everlasting life of blessings and bliss. But all this we have wasted. We have allowed ourselves to be swallowed up by the dark lakes of depression which flood us with feelings of sloth and bitterness. We have given our hearts to ponder the poison of self-love, of pride, and like spoiled fruit on the tree we sour away. We have failed to see the beauty and wonder God has surrounded us with. And so we have not been worthy of being made in the image and likeness of God. We have received the earth as a lush field, well watered and bearing a bounty that is ripe and sweet. We have received Eden, but we have made it a desert. We have been content with far less, with comfort and luxury, than God has been wanting to give us, a spiritual, boundless, endless rapture of luminous life and love, in fellowship with Him, in His very depths. We have given up a destiny of paradise, a paradise where the love of the Holy Trinity would be met by the priestly love of the adoring man, where the
Creator and the creature would be as one, where all is in all.

If we should come to feel all this we would not be irritated by the “Lord Have Mercy” repeated so many times. We would find that tears would be washing our faces, the balm of the Holy Spirit, the baptism into His marvelous light, that gives our hearts wings so that our souls might fly with the Seraphim and exchange the kiss of peace with the Mother of God and with all His saints, in
whom He is pleased to dwell. We would want only to please God, to see His joy at our coming, to hear Him call out our names in a tone of affection and friendship, to hear Him testify before the Father and in the court of the New Jerusalem where all the hosts of the righteous stand in victory at the foot of the throne of glory, that we belong to Him, that our lives were to Him as a sweet smelling fragrance. We would hate our sin.

The Church is intimately in Love with her Lord. She forever yearns to be worthy of His Love. She is forever amazed at His steadfast love. And so she says over and over again, “Lord Have Mercy?’ To the extent that we enter into this consciousness and truly experience the fact that God loves us, then we will understand that nothing we say, do, think, or desire will ever be enough, that no prayer, praise, or petition directed to God is ever enough for the God that is too much!
http://www.antiochian.org/Orthodox_Church_Who_What_Where_Why/Why_do_we_say_Lord_Have_Mercy.htm



Grace and Peace Mickey,

BTW, I never took any offense by your earlier comment concerning my flip-flopping. It was a legitimate dig in my opinion.

That said I appreciate the explanation but I would guess that there is a far less poetic answer... we cry for Mercy as we reflect on the 'dreaded Judgment Seat of Christ....'

Do you recall the Sunday of Judgment?
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« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2010, 03:06:31 PM »

ISTM that we're talking on this thread about mercy in the juridical sense we have attached to the word, that in crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we're begging God to repent of His wrath against our sins and to forgive us or forestall his divine retribution.  Whereas there is this element in the Orthodox understanding of mercy, istm that this takes a distant back seat to the much more pervasive understanding of mercy as blessing and divine favor.  We understand God to be loving and kind, so by crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we ask Him to be to us what He already is.  It's very much as if we're saying, "God be bountiful to us and bless us."
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« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2010, 03:32:33 PM »

The tragedy of our lives seems to be not that God has forgotten us but that we have forgotten God. And in this forgetting we do not feel our sin, we do not think that we hurt God by sinning. We surely lack a comprehension that we disappoint God. We do not feel the warm breath of God on our flesh, or hear the weeping of our souls and the gentle Holy Spirit’s weeping too. We do not see His countenance fall, the divine expression of loss, when we betray Him.

We have been given wonderful gifts by God, our God. We have been given life, and the possibility of receiving fountains of living water, the fresh splash of joy and peace in fellowship with God. We have been given abilities, friends, all of the beautiful creation. We have been given divine sonship in God’s eternal Son, that even as He became one of us we might become one like Him, a God by grace, and sit down next to God in an everlasting life of blessings and bliss. But all this we have wasted. We have allowed ourselves to be swallowed up by the dark lakes of depression which flood us with feelings of sloth and bitterness. We have given our hearts to ponder the poison of self-love, of pride, and like spoiled fruit on the tree we sour away. We have failed to see the beauty and wonder God has surrounded us with. And so we have not been worthy of being made in the image and likeness of God. We have received the earth as a lush field, well watered and bearing a bounty that is ripe and sweet. We have received Eden, but we have made it a desert. We have been content with far less, with comfort and luxury, than God has been wanting to give us, a spiritual, boundless, endless rapture of luminous life and love, in fellowship with Him, in His very depths. We have given up a destiny of paradise, a paradise where the love of the Holy Trinity would be met by the priestly love of the adoring man, where the
Creator and the creature would be as one, where all is in all.

If we should come to feel all this we would not be irritated by the “Lord Have Mercy” repeated so many times. We would find that tears would be washing our faces, the balm of the Holy Spirit, the baptism into His marvelous light, that gives our hearts wings so that our souls might fly with the Seraphim and exchange the kiss of peace with the Mother of God and with all His saints, in
whom He is pleased to dwell. We would want only to please God, to see His joy at our coming, to hear Him call out our names in a tone of affection and friendship, to hear Him testify before the Father and in the court of the New Jerusalem where all the hosts of the righteous stand in victory at the foot of the throne of glory, that we belong to Him, that our lives were to Him as a sweet smelling fragrance. We would hate our sin.

The Church is intimately in Love with her Lord. She forever yearns to be worthy of His Love. She is forever amazed at His steadfast love. And so she says over and over again, “Lord Have Mercy?’ To the extent that we enter into this consciousness and truly experience the fact that God loves us, then we will understand that nothing we say, do, think, or desire will ever be enough, that no prayer, praise, or petition directed to God is ever enough for the God that is too much!
http://www.antiochian.org/Orthodox_Church_Who_What_Where_Why/Why_do_we_say_Lord_Have_Mercy.htm


Absolutely beautiful!
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« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2010, 03:35:36 PM »

ISTM that we're talking on this thread about mercy in the juridical sense we have attached to the word, that in crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we're begging God to repent of His wrath against our sins and to forgive us or forestall his divine retribution.  Whereas there is this element in the Orthodox understanding of mercy, istm that this takes a distant back seat to the much more pervasive understanding of mercy as blessing and divine favor.  We understand God to be loving and kind, so by crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we ask Him to be to us what He already is.  It's very much as if we're saying, "God be bountiful to us and bless us."

And would you agree that to the degree that we are attached to our sins, His Wrath is against us as well? I think what I find concerning in our modern day is this idea that we are no longer responsible for our actions. We see individuals going to rehab centers for Sex Addiction and Drug Addiction, etc completely avoiding their own responsibility for what they have chosen to do in their lives. We see these things as 'illnesses' which are 'caught' in our society and no longer see them as actions brought upon us by our own actions. In one sense, I see this present also within some of the responses here as well. When we look at it in this sense, we have to reinterpret God, the Judgment Seat, Judgment Day, Sin, Wrath, etc... as we have done.

I guess my concern is that these interpretations aren't the 'normative' interpretations that we might reach if we looked at the actual words used in the Liturgy and within the Sacred Text.
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« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2010, 03:53:34 PM »

ISTM that we're talking on this thread about mercy in the juridical sense we have attached to the word, that in crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we're begging God to repent of His wrath against our sins and to forgive us or forestall his divine retribution.  Whereas there is this element in the Orthodox understanding of mercy, istm that this takes a distant back seat to the much more pervasive understanding of mercy as blessing and divine favor.  We understand God to be loving and kind, so by crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we ask Him to be to us what He already is.  It's very much as if we're saying, "God be bountiful to us and bless us."

And would you agree that to the degree that we are attached to our sins, His Wrath is against us as well? I think what I find concerning in our modern day is this idea that we are no longer responsible for our actions. We see individuals going to rehab centers for Sex Addiction and Drug Addiction, etc completely avoiding their own responsibility for what they have chosen to do in their lives. We see these things as 'illnesses' which are 'caught' in our society and no longer see them as actions brought upon us by our own actions. In one sense, I see this present also within some of the responses here as well. When we look at it in this sense, we have to reinterpret God, the Judgment Seat, Judgment Day, Sin, Wrath, etc... as we have done.


I would hardly use the example of the many celebrities who use rehab centers as a way to avoid media attention for a while to disparage the good that those centers do to most people.  One of the foundational beliefs in every rehab center I've ever been acquainted with (I've known quite a few people who have been through them and a number of friends work in drug/alcohol counseling) is that one must acknowledge that their addiction has repercussions and one most make some sort of amends (even if it can only be a heartfelt apology) to those they have hurt through their addiction. 

Quote
I guess my concern is that these interpretations aren't the 'normative' interpretations that we might reach if we looked at the actual words used in the Liturgy and within the Sacred Text.

The problem is, we Anglophones are looking at a text that was translated via a cultural medium wherein the word "mercy" has exceptionally juridical connotations and is all but devoid of the rich meaning one finds in the original Greek.  When one hears "Lord, have mercy!" in English, the image is most likely of a cowering criminal with hands raised to void off a violent blow as opposed to, say, the murmur of the man by the road in the parable of the Samaritan.  It was an incredible eye-opener for me when I learned of the etymology of the word "eleison" and how the Fathers wrote about the Church as Hospital.  As PtA pointed out, there certainly is an element of staving off God's wrath inherent in crying "Mercy!" to Him, but there's also more to it than that.
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« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2010, 04:10:34 PM »

ISTM that we're talking on this thread about mercy in the juridical sense we have attached to the word, that in crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we're begging God to repent of His wrath against our sins and to forgive us or forestall his divine retribution.  Whereas there is this element in the Orthodox understanding of mercy, istm that this takes a distant back seat to the much more pervasive understanding of mercy as blessing and divine favor.  We understand God to be loving and kind, so by crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we ask Him to be to us what He already is.  It's very much as if we're saying, "God be bountiful to us and bless us."

And would you agree that to the degree that we are attached to our sins, His Wrath is against us as well? I think what I find concerning in our modern day is this idea that we are no longer responsible for our actions. We see individuals going to rehab centers for Sex Addiction and Drug Addiction, etc completely avoiding their own responsibility for what they have chosen to do in their lives. We see these things as 'illnesses' which are 'caught' in our society and no longer see them as actions brought upon us by our own actions. In one sense, I see this present also within some of the responses here as well. When we look at it in this sense, we have to reinterpret God, the Judgment Seat, Judgment Day, Sin, Wrath, etc... as we have done.


I would hardly use the example of the many celebrities who use rehab centers as a way to avoid media attention for a while to disparage the good that those centers do to most people.  One of the foundational beliefs in every rehab center I've ever been acquainted with (I've known quite a few people who have been through them and a number of friends work in drug/alcohol counseling) is that one must acknowledge that their addiction has repercussions and one most make some sort of amends (even if it can only be a heartfelt apology) to those they have hurt through their addiction. 

I'm not condemning rehab centers but to point out parallel within secular culture to this very idea of sins as an illness and not an action of the will. 

Quote
Quote
I guess my concern is that these interpretations aren't the 'normative' interpretations that we might reach if we looked at the actual words used in the Liturgy and within the Sacred Text.

The problem is, we Anglophones are looking at a text that was translated via a cultural medium wherein the word "mercy" has exceptionally juridical connotations and is all but devoid of the rich meaning one finds in the original Greek.  When one hears "Lord, have mercy!" in English, the image is most likely of a cowering criminal with hands raised to void off a violent blow as opposed to, say, the murmur of the man by the road in the parable of the Samaritan.  It was an incredible eye-opener for me when I learned of the etymology of the word "eleison" and how the Fathers wrote about the Church as Hospital.  As PtA pointed out, there certainly is an element of staving off God's wrath inherent in crying "Mercy!" to Him, but there's also more to it than that.

I parallel the text with the Good thief. He knew he was justly condemned but asked for Mercy and was given it.
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« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2010, 05:03:38 PM »

We understand God to be loving and kind, so by crying, "Lord, have mercy!", we ask Him to be to us what He already is.  It's very much as if we're saying, "God be bountiful to us and bless us."

Yes, yes!  I once heard an Orthodox priest say that it is like saying:

"Lord, be who you are!"
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« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2010, 05:09:03 PM »

I think the problem here is that we are having a tug of war over how we view God. You see God full of wrath, anger, and that God is a Cosmic Cop in the sky whom we are begging to save us from the fiery flames of hell.

We see God as a loving God who as undeserving as we are, is willing to heal us, help us, and guide us whenever as ask for it.

I'm not sure that you completely digested the Wikipedia article that I quoted, for it clearly states that in exclaiming "Kyrie Eleison" we are thanking God for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. In essence, it's the perfect prayer because it is saying "God, whatever you feel needs to be done here, please do it, and we thank you for whatever you will do, because we know it will be perfect!"

God is an active part of our life. He is not benign.

I'm not sure why you have such a problem with the "Lord have mercy's" in the Orthodox services but do not object to them in the Catholic Masses. In both situations they are used in Litanies that are very similar to one another. (The language used in our services in not that terribly different from the language used in a Catholic Mass. In fact while reading the Novus Ordo Mass I could pick out the different sections where the same wording occurs in different Orthodox services.)

There is no doubt that the Orthodox Church emphasizes the need for repentance. We just came out of Great Lent and had three weeks leading into Great Lent to remind us of the importance of Repentance. Forgiveness Sunday, the Sunday of Judgement, the prayer of St. Ephraim, Bridegroom Matins, etc., all remind us of the need to repent and ask for God's mercy. (Not to mention the Church's emphasis on fasting and confession!)

But that mercy is not just a hand reaching down and pulling us out of the fiery flames of hell.

No. That mercy is a salve that comes down, heals us of our ailments, helps us to be better Christians, and helps us grow in the process of theosis.

"God became man so that man may become God" says St. Athanasius. This is what God's mercy is about. Not just pulling us out of hell, but bringing us closer to Him and changing us as well.
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« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2010, 05:38:48 PM »

I think the problem here is that we are having a tug of war over how we view God. You see God full of wrath, anger, and that God is a Cosmic Cop in the sky whom we are begging to save us from the fiery flames of hell.

I think if our end is to 'ultimately' stand before the 'dreaded' Judgment Seat and give account... then He is 'the' Cosmic Judge and His judgment will be our end. I don't see how we explain that away with all these other analogies.
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« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2010, 06:09:01 PM »



God is an active part of our life. He is not benign.



Dearest Handmaid,

Our Lord is indeed benign.  He is not indifferent.

 angel
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« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2010, 10:01:02 PM »

I think the problem here is that we are having a tug of war over how we view God. You see God full of wrath, anger, and that God is a Cosmic Cop in the sky whom we are begging to save us from the fiery flames of hell.

I think if our end is to 'ultimately' stand before the 'dreaded' Judgment Seat and give account... then He is 'the' Cosmic Judge and His judgment will be our end. I don't see how we explain that away with all these other analogies.

Yes, He is Lord and Judge, but He isn't just sitting there waiting for us to screw up so He can damn us. That is what His mercy is about. To help pick us up when we fall.

Let us look at the Lenten Triodion. The second week of the Triodion is the parable of the Prodigal Son. God is the Father waiting with open arms to welcome us home when we repent. However, as the Bridegroom Matins of Holy Week remind us, we must repent and be vigilant, for the Bridegroom cometh like a thief in the night.

Just as God has many names, God has many dimensions. The scriptures and the services show us that. The Psalms tell us that God is plenteous in His mercy and that His mercy endures forever.

So why shouldn't we ask for it?
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« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2010, 10:02:52 PM »



God is an active part of our life. He is not benign.



Dearest Handmaid,

Our Lord is indeed benign.  He is not indifferent.

 angel

Elijahmaria,

I never said the Lord is indifferent. If you read my posts you will see that I believe quite the contrary. The definition of benign I was understanding was "self-limiting." God just doesn't sit there and do nothing, He is an active part of our lives.
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« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2010, 10:06:34 PM »



God is an active part of our life. He is not benign.



Dearest Handmaid,

Our Lord is indeed benign.  He is not indifferent.

 angel

Elijahmaria,

I never said the Lord is indifferent. If you read my posts you will see that I believe quite the contrary. The definition of benign I was understanding was "self-limiting." God just doesn't sit there and do nothing, He is an active part of our lives.

Actus Purus? Wink
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« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2010, 10:17:46 PM »



God is an active part of our life. He is not benign.



Dearest Handmaid,

Our Lord is indeed benign.  He is not indifferent.

 angel

Elijahmaria,

I never said the Lord is indifferent. If you read my posts you will see that I believe quite the contrary. The definition of benign I was understanding was "self-limiting." God just doesn't sit there and do nothing, He is an active part of our lives.

Best I can say to all that is that your definition of benign is a tad idiosyncratic.

Actus Purus indeed!!  angel
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« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2010, 01:16:26 AM »

When I call out, "Lord have mercy" I am asking God for healing not a reprieve, because I can never do anything to make myself worthy of a pardon. I view the prayer as a healing balm that washes over me, especially when we recite it 40 times in a row. During Holy Week service we recite a prayer that likens the Theotokos to a fruitful olive tree. She bore Christ, the Healer of mankind. And she continues to be that as her healing oil pours out of the many icons around the world to heal us all of our spiritual and physical ailments. Go back and do a word study of Kyrie Eleison. You will have a more accurate understanding of this prayer.

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7124

The excellent book "Orthodox Worship" describes the meaning of the word mercy as follows:

"The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for 'Lord, have mercy,' are 'Kyrie, eleison'  that is to say, 'Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.' Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal  a very Western interpretation  but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray 'Lord, have mercy,' with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy."*


From the Liturgy

 
I share with you the following prayer from the liturgy because it reminds us that God's awesomeness, His majesty and His power are exceeded only by His mercy:

"O Lord our God, Whose power is unimaginable and Whose glory is inconceivable, Whose mercy is immeasurable and Whose love for mankind is beyond all words, in Your compassion, Lord, look down on us and on this holy house, and grant us and those who are praying with us the riches of Your mercy and compassion. For to You are due all glory, honor and worship, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages."

From the Scriptures

 
Think of the people who approached Jesus with this simple prayer, "Kyrie eleison", "Lord, have mercy":

 
The Canaanite woman whose daughter was tormented by a devil. She persisted in her plea for mercy until her daughter was healed.
The man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit that threw him into the fire. He came to Jesus with the plea Kyrie eleison. The prayer was answered and his son was healed.
The two blind men sitting by the road outside Jericho who cried out to Jesus, Kyrie eleison. That cry was heard by Jesus who healed both of them.
A final example. Jesus is left alone with the adulteress. Misery is left alone face to face with mercy. And she hears from the mouth of Jesus the words, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more." That is God's mercy!
 
In all these instances Kyrie eleison was not a prayer that people recited unthinkingly and mechanically, but a cry of sincere faith that came from their hearts, a cry of desperate need and dependence on Jesus. Such a prayer God will not despise
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« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2010, 09:46:41 AM »

I think the problem here is that we are having a tug of war over how we view God. You see God full of wrath, anger, and that God is a Cosmic Cop in the sky whom we are begging to save us from the fiery flames of hell.

I think if our end is to 'ultimately' stand before the 'dreaded' Judgment Seat and give account... then He is 'the' Cosmic Judge and His judgment will be our end. I don't see how we explain that away with all these other analogies.

Yes, He is Lord and Judge, but He isn't just sitting there waiting for us to screw up so He can damn us. That is what His mercy is about. To help pick us up when we fall.

Let us look at the Lenten Triodion. The second week of the Triodion is the parable of the Prodigal Son. God is the Father waiting with open arms to welcome us home when we repent. However, as the Bridegroom Matins of Holy Week remind us, we must repent and be vigilant, for the Bridegroom cometh like a thief in the night.

Just as God has many names, God has many dimensions. The scriptures and the services show us that. The Psalms tell us that God is plenteous in His mercy and that His mercy endures forever.

So why shouldn't we ask for it?

These are all very good examples HandmaidenofGod. Thank you for helping me understand the greater depth of your tradition. I have never said that we shouldn't ask for mercy from God. I am only pointing out my concern that we have so intellectualized God's 'mercy' and downplayed His 'Wraith' and 'Judgment' that it almost seems silly in it's modern context. We seem to be so only concerned that someone will think our God a Tyrant that we no longer have coherent conception of God... but maybe I am premature in my assessment in that. I really like what I've read from you and others.
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