We are almost to the holy season of Lent. Soon we will begin a time of reflection, penance, and pondering. The question will now become, will we meet Lent and allow it to change us? Do we recognize the need for change? Do we feel the ever-growing need for God to be closer to us, in a world that so often knows Him not?
I wonder if this year, after losing church for almost a full year, surviving a political season of unprecedented turmoil, experiencing an unimaginable insurrection, with so many lives now ended, literally into the hundreds of thousands, due to an unseen virus, jobs gone, income challenged, mental health unstable, and so many lives shattered…will we finally come home and make the ‘things that are lasting’ actually be just that: lasting?
Greek Orthodox priest, Father Anthony M. Coniaris, died recently, but once shared a palatably Lenten observance with something we seemingly take for granted, The Kyrie, located at the beginning of every Mass shared. He writes, “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.’”
Therefore, mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal, which are at their core very Western interpretation, but rather 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 our beautiful Liturgy.
This Lent, I wish you not the giving up anything; there has been too great a loss already. Instead, I wish you and those you love so deeply a simple wish; a prayer really, from deepest soul to yours…