Monday, October 3, 2011

Kyrie Eleison (on my journey with Orthodoxy)

I close my eyes. Kyrie, ele-e-e-e-ison. We begin the repetition: Lord, have mercy. Our voices move up the scale, and we hold the last note long, letting it reverberate through our bodies. My sneakers feel the creaking wood of the floor and my hands clutch the smooth leather of the liturgy book. My head hurts, I have a sore throat, and everything feels tired. But then, the choir begins to pray, to help me pray, to help us all pray the thing we always need and never ask: Lord, have mercy.
(photo: mandie sodoma, sindisiwe photography)
Kyrie, eleison. 

The Orthodox Church teaches me to ask for mercy: to begin and end with this prayer to the Lord, the repetition that sounds through the sanctuary and echoes even when all has become still and dark. Because though we are forgiven, and found, and becoming whole - we are also still fallen, still faltering, still troubled. We beg mercy because we need His voice to calm the storms in our lives. We pray mercy because we need His patience to live with the unanswered questions. We need mercy to see where He is leading us.

Kyrie eleison. 

My eyes fly open as the priest faces the altar, his hands raised, and says, "Lord, our God, whose power is beyond compare, and glory is beyond understanding; whose mercy is boundless, and love for us is ineffable; look upon us and upon this holy house in Your compassion. Grant to us and to those who pray with us Your abundant mercy."

And as I look at the priest, his hands raised in prayer, I find Mary, the Theotokos, her own hands raised. This is the icon of the Platyteria - Mary who is "more spacious than the Heavens". She holds her hands open in prayer and at the center of the icon is the Christ child, making the sign of blessing. She looks at me. I can almost hear her ask me, "Hilary, have you asked my Son for mercy? Hilary, have you held your hands out in prayer and asked that He fill you?"
(photo: mandie sodoma, sindisiwe photography)
Ky-ri-e, e-e-lei-son. 

I know so little about this world. I peer in the window of Orthodoxy on my tiptoes, and find myself drawn back again, and again, to the hands raised in prayer and the same prayer for mercy. I am drawn back to the richness of this mystery, that in our repetitions new life emerges, that in mirroring Mary I am drawn nearer to Christ, that in whispered Greek words my heart finds a language it longs for.

And may God grant to us and to those who pray with us His abundant mercy.



  1. Hil,

    This post, which is just so beautiful, confirmed for me yet again how grateful I am to have been led to the Orthodox Church -- I started to say how glad I am that I chose Orthodoxy but I am not so sure that it wasn't the other way around. It is like saying that you have "chosen" to love the Theotokos. You did choose somewhat but she chose too! I continue to choose God and He continues to show me the way that is best for my soul and my salvation. Were it not for the prayers of the Church, the liturgy and the Eucharist my heart and soul would be nothing but a heap of ash. Thank you for putting things you love into words for me and others -- but mostly I am glad that you are able to find truth in your own writing process. +JMR


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...