Kyrie means “Lord” and eleison means “have mercy!” This cry became a prayer in the liturgy at a time when the Church still worshipped in the Greek language. It was the cry of the people when their king entered their city. They felt honored by His visit and expected Him to bestow favors upon the city. The Church has taken over this prayer to greet its King Jesus in the church service. As the people of old expected help from their king, so we Christians expect grace and favor from our Savior. He will help us and deliver us from our greatest trouble and need: sin; for His Name is Jesus.
A blind man hears of the great deeds which Jesus did (St. Mark 10.47). Now he cries out: “Lord, have mercy.” He continues with this cry until Jesus hears him and restores his sight.
A woman recognizes Our Lord as He passes the border of the land of Israel (St. Matthew 15.22). She has heard about Him. She believes that He will help her daughter who is very ill. Therefore she prays: “Lord, have mercy.” And Jesus hears her petition; one word from Him is sufficient to heal the sick girl.
We also greet our King as did the people of old, and ask Him for favors. Like the poor blind man, and like the desperate woman, we cry for His merciful help; from Him only can we get help and salvation. Therefore we join in the prayer of Christians throughout the world: “Lord, have mercy.”
“The Little Service Book” was written by the Rev. Berthold von Schenk (1895-1974), pastor of Our Saviour—New York, as an explanation of the Common Service for children.