I recently went on my annual retreat at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, a community of monks in Redwood Valley, CA who are affiliated with the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I joined them for all of their prayers throughout the day and one of the things that struck me was the frequency at which we repeated the prayer “Lord, have mercy”. At midday prayer there was a point where we would repeat it forty times in a row!
Now, I must confess, the repetition became annoying to me after a while and in an effort to regain a prayerful spirit I tried to glean some spiritual insight from what seemed to me at first to be useless repetition. And then it hit me: the prayer that was so frequently peppered throughout the Liturgy is meant to be a constant acknowledgement of our sinfulness before an all-good God. It is a prayer that should be relentless in the life of the Christian, who is a sinner perpetually in need of God’s mercy. There is never a moment in our lives when we do not need it. The first act of any Christian is that of recognition of sin and repentance from it in one’s own life. When we repent we turn to God and ask Him for mercy and this is an action that must be constantly renewed every day of our converted lives. We cannot be truly repentant if we are doing anything less than begging God for mercy.
Acknowledging sinfulness and guilt is something many in our society have forgotten how to do. We are so miserably presumptuous! We have forgotten about our fallen state, that we still have inclinations toward evil. When we do not acknowledge that we are sinners, then the natural conclusion is that we do not really need a savior. If we live our lives with this kind of attitude we are living a lie, the lie that we are doing okay on our own, and we waltz through life presuming that God is going to forgive us without our asking. But then we will come before the dread judgment seat of God and hear “depart from me, wicked servant, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and His angels.” By then, it will be too late for us to utter the words, “Lord have mercy.” So we do well to sincerely say them as often as we can in this life.
If we wish to become saints, we must make this the prayer of our lives and always be confident that God is eager to lavish upon us this mercy we constantly implore. The scriptures sing the praises of His mercy, which “endures forever” (Ps. 118). God is a merciful Father who always welcomes us with arms wide open and He will not refuse anyone who turns to Him with “Lord, have mercy” constantly on their lips.
Br. Benedict Mary, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE