“Kyrie eleison” or Lord have Mercy..
(These particular words express a plea for God's mercy)
Why was the Greek word “Kyrie eleison” not translated into Latin.
Within the Roman Rite Latin is the official language of the Mass, which is then normally translated into the vernacular. However, *one phrase within the liturgy stands out from the rest because the words are not Latin, but Greek.*
During the penitential rite the priest say “Kyrie eleison” (“Lord, have mercy”): Greek words that were never converted into Latin. Why is that?
According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, “It is certain that the liturgy at Rome was at one time said in Greek. In this regard the Greek words remind us of our Greek origins. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. In fact, the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Churches, which maintain the ancient forms, incorporate the phrase “Kyrie eleison, in many places throughout the Mass. It is a common response to litanies.
“Kyrie eleison” was added centuries later into the Roman Rite. This means the inclusion of the Greek words in the Latin Mass was deliberate and significant.
“Kyrie eleison” wasn’t translated into Latin because it would have lost their original meaning.
Greek ‘eleos’ means ‘mercy’ in English
Eleos has the same root as the old Greek word for olive oil; Olive oil is extensively used 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.
In the Parable of The Good Samaritan. Luke 10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
Greek “eleos’ is ‘chesed’ in Hebrew, meaning ‘mercy / pity’ or ‘loving kindness’ or Grace or steadfast love ps 136;23-24.
This chesed in Hebrew translated in to English is what we call ‘MERCY’
So ‘eleos’ Greek is not ‘mercy or pity’ the way we understand it in English.
Chesed has also been understood as linked with the Greek word 'Agape' and its Latin equivalent, caritas (charity).
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.”*
*In light of this explanation the phrase comes alive and highlights the beauty and depth of God’s mercy. It shows a loving God who wants to bind our wounds like the Divine Physician he is. Instead of standing in front of a tribunal at the beginning of Mass asking for mercy from a powerful judge, we are face-to-face with a compassionate God, who is ready to pick us up when we fall down.*
So while it may seem strange to speak Greek words at Mass, the Church chose those words centuries ago specifically for their deep and powerful meaning.
Anthony Custodio Fiacre Dias
Email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site tonydias.page.tl
9th Oct 2017