Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Monday, January 11 2021
The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:5–7
The word kyrie is (for all you word-nerds out there) the vocative case of the Greek word kyrios which means “Lord.” If you were to read the book of Genesis from the Septuagint (the earliest translation of the Hebrew Bible into ancient Greek), every time the Hebrew word Yhwh/Adonai appeared, you would see it translated into Greek as kyrie. In worship services around the globe, the words kyrie eleison (“Lord have mercy”) are sung as a central part of the liturgy, a congregational petition to God.
What I love about a kyrie, though, is the way it feels when you say/sing it out loud. The linguists call that <k> sound a ‘voiceless velar plosive’ (for what it’s worth), but to me, it feels vocally potent: a powerful reminder that our breath holds divine power—that we are intricately connected by our every breath to the Lord our God.
The kyrie performed by our choir this spring was composed by Franz Schubert and is surprisingly uplifting for a song asking for God’s mercy. It makes asking for God’s mercy feel less of a pleading-begging-beseeching gesture, and more like a beautiful gift, reliable and trustworthy.
Do not petition us to beg and plead, O God, but instead may your mercy flow like a beautiful gift, reliable and trustworthy. Amen.