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“Lord, Have Mercy!”


All the Divine services of the Orthodox Church are filled with the praying wail: "Kirie eleison — Lord, have mercy!"

This is the most ancient human prayer. The ancient narration tells that our antecedents, who committed a sin and were driven out of heaven, sitting close to it, started to appeal to God exactly with this penitent wail of the soul: "Lord, have mercy!" "Merciful, have mercy on me, a sinner!"

The holiest Old Testament creations Psalms and prophesies unceasingly repeat this word: "Lord, have mercy!" "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness" (Ps. 50). "Beseech God that he will be gracious unto us," says Prophet Malachi (1:9).

The first prayer that sounded in the newly built temple in Jerusalem was: "Lord God, when thou hearest, forgive" (1 Kings 8:30).

This is the first prayer, which is learnt by an Orthodox child and the last one, which is repeated by the waning consciousness of a dying.

And if in the calm days, in the commotion of the daily fuss, "Lord, have mercy!" is often indifferently repeated, like learnt by heart chorus, then, when in the moment when a danger, or suffering, or ardent realization of one’s own downfall shakes the soul, this short praying wail suddenly gets filled with great power and the most profound sense. And as a condemned for death, standing in front of the judge, in whose look he wants to see the last hope for forgiveness, as the seriously sick in his appeal to the doctor, able to save him, the soul starts appealing to the Almighty: "Lord, have mercy!"

Many wonderful prayers are composed by the inspired prophets. But when death looks you in the eye, or when the unbearable fire of shame is burning the soul, then the man cannot find forces in himself to quietly repeat the diffuse prayers, but instead, with his own words appeals: "Lord, have mercy!"

And when, surpassing the expectations, it will turn out that the wail is heard, when the Merciful Hand will deflect the inevitable, as it seemed, danger and lead the soul out of a hopeless deadlock, then the saved soul is getting attached to this simple prayer with real love and now in a calm and enlightened way repeats it in all the dark and light, happy and sorrowful minutes of life.

That is why the Orthodox divine service is filled with the chorus "Lord, have mercy!" If the Orthodoxy, as Metropolitan Anthony teaches, is mostly the religion of repentance, if, on the teaching of the same holy father, it is the sanctuary of the entire mankind, and everything kind, valuable, right in the universe, wherever it is, belongs to the Orthodox Church in its essence, then, for sure, here, in the Orthodox temple, in the Orthodox prayer, on the worthy place, in rich in content divine services, must be the fundamental prayer of mankind — "Lord, have mercy!"

A separate human being, and all nations and mankind on the whole many times stood on the verge of ruin and many times were saved by the Divine merciful hand. How are we not to appeal, then: "Lord, have mercy!"?

With no doubt, we guess that this first prayer of mankind, first pronounced by our having sinned antecedents in the bitter hour of casting out of the paradise, will be the last prayer of the man, when in the fire and storm, with the sounding archangelic trumpet, the human history will be finished, and in the anxious approaching to the throne of the Righteous Judge the human souls will find neither strength, nor time for any other prayers than this one, shortest and unfathomably-profound: "Lord, have mercy! Lord, spare and have mercy!"

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