Kyrie eleison

Suddenly we have arrived in month of December. In the Christian church we are in the season of Advent – the period of waiting and preparing to herald the Good News of Christ’s birth. This season presents us with such a wonderful choice when it comes to poems. Like me, you no doubt have your favorites, which you delight to return to year after year. Before I begin posting such poems, I would like to take a moment to begin this season with reference to the liturgical chant “kyrie eleison” – meaning Lord have mercy. This liturgical refrain can be found in the first sung prayer of the Mass and has been incorporated into worship services across many denominations of the church.

Today I will indulge in my choice of poem from R.S. Thomas, to whom I turn so often. In 1991 he published a collection of poems which followed the pattern of the Mass, and the book is entitled Mass for Hard Times. Within the book there is a wonderful collection of poems on faith and doubt. In the book’s opening poem of the same title, he writes in 6 sections – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and lastly Agnus Dei. I share with you the first of these 6 pieces -Kyrie – and for the first time in my 150 posts to date I am not writing a prayer, but allowing the poem to be that prayer and inviting you to offer your own prayer using the refrain Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.

Because we cannot be clever and honest
and are inventors of things more intricate
than the snowflake – Lord have mercy.

Because we are full of pride
in our humility, and because we believe
in our disbelief – Lord have mercy.

Because we will protect ourselves
from ourselves to the point
of destroying ourselves – Lord have mercy.

And because on the slope to perfection
when we should be half-way up,
we are have-way down- Lord have mercy. R. S. Thomas – Mass for Hard Times

Kyrie eleison,
Lord have mercy …

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