Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy.

That’s what kyrie eleison means. It’s Latin. I heard it about 30 times last Sunday afternoon. Not because someone was upset (“Lor’ have mercy”) but because I was listening to a children’s choir sing.

That’s the choir in this really bad picture taken with my cell phone. What you should be able to see in this picture are the following: 50 kids, 6th-9th grade; a conductor; a piano; a jembe drum; 3 steel drums; a drum set; a cow bell; a shaker (not the religion, the percussion instrument).

This kyrie, taken from a mass attributed to Saint Francis, was set in Caribbean style by Glenn McClure. It starts with the steel drums, and then involves the whole group you see.

As I was helping set up for the concert, I carried in the stands for the steel drums. They are made of ordinary, hardware-store-variety galvanized pipe. And then I thought about the steel drums themselves, made in Jamaica, shaped by hand with more skill than expense. The same is true of the hand drum. And the cowbell. And the voices. And the words said by many, attributed here to a follower of Christ who abandoned pretty much everything, including dignity.

And as I listened to the voices and percussion blend, I realized (or remembered), that calling out to God for mercy doesn’t have to cost much. It doesn’t take expensive instruments (like the 8 foot Steinway grand piano) as much as it takes willingness. We don’t have to build ornate places to cry out for mercy.

In fact, the cry for mercy comes not when we understand everything but when we can’t; not when we are on top of the world, but when there isn’t anywhere else to go; not when our lives are together, but when they are falling apart.

Thanksgiving is a melancholy time for many people. We know we are supposed to be thankful, but we look in the mirror and can’t imagine the people around us being very thankful for…us. And we know we are supposed to be thankful, but we aren’t sure who to thank. And we know we are supposed to be thankful, but…

And so, may I offer a suggestion for what to say right before you put on the smile and make the list?

“Kyrie eleison.”

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4 responses to “Kyrie eleison

  1. Wanted to let you know that the Kyrie is Greek. It was the only Greek remaining in the Mass. Now this historical connection has been erased by the vernacular.

  2. yes, indeed. Thanks for this correction!

  3. Pingback: kyrie eleison - still « Levite Chronicles

  4. I guess by now you would know that the steelpan is not from Jamica but from Trinidad & Tobago the only musical instrument invent in the 20 century