Is the Kyrie a petition to the Trinity?


#1

I found this question previously posted on CAF without an answer. Can someone please answer it as I have read conflicting information about whether it is Trinitarian or solely addressed to Jesus.

The “Kyrie” – Directed solely toward Christ or Trinitarian?
Recently I heard these thoughts on the Kiere Eleison in a talk by Fr. Peter Stravinskas:

“All three invocations are directed to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, under His two titles of Lord and Christ. In Luke’s Gospel, we’re told at the Nativity, the angels tell the shepherds, ‘You will go and see the One who is the Lord and the Christ.’ It’s the fullness of Messianic titles present in Him, by which He’s invoked in the Penitential Rite.”

My question is twofold:

(1) Does anyone know for certain this is true that it is NOT meant to be Trinitarian?

(2) Does anyone have quotes/citations of Church documents supporting this view, or their view, whatever it might be? (I’m having a really hard time finding sources!)


#2

There are some commentaries on the liturgy that suggest the Kyrie is trinitarian. For example, the Douay Catechism:
Q. What means the Kyrie Eleison?

A. It signifies, “Lord have mercy on us,” and is repeated thrice in honour of the Son, and thrice in honour of the Holy Ghost.
Also “The Triumphs and Glories of the Catholic Church”:
[The priest] returns to the middle of the altar, and says, alternately with the clerk, the Kyrie Eleison, or, Lord have mercy on us ; which is said three times to God the Father ; three times Christe Eleison, or, Christ, have mercy on us, to God the Son ; and three times again, Kyrie Eleison, to God the Holy Ghost.
Again, from Rev. Nicholas Gihr’s, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”:
The three Divine Persons are separately and consecutively invoked: first the Father by the Kyrie eleison; then the Son by the Christe eleison; and finally the Holy Ghost by the Kyrie eleison.
In the ancient Greek liturgies, the invocation “Kyrie eleison” was used in a litany; the invocation “Christe eleison” was added when Rome adopted and adapted the “Kyrie eleison”:
Further, we neither have said nor now say the Kyrie Eleison, as it is said by the Greeks: for among the Greeks all say it together; but with us it is said by the clerks, and responded to by the people; and as often as it is said, Christe Eleison is said also, which is not said at all among the Greeks. (Letter of Pope St. Gregory I to Bishop John of Syracuse)
There are other commentaries that state the Kyrie is not Trinitarian. This essay, for example, says that
the medieval understanding [was] that in the nine-fold Kyrie, the first “Lord, have mercy,” repeated three times, was addressed to the Father, the “Christ have mercy,” repeated thrice, referred, of course, to the Son, and then the last “Lord, have mercy,” thrice spoken, referred to the Holy Ghost, who is “the Lord and Giver of life,” as we say in the Creed. There is certainly nothing wrong with understanding this as a prayer to the Trinity, but it is more probable in accordance with Pauline and primitive usage that the prayer was addressed in its entirety to the Lord Christ, as is clearly the case in the threefold Agnus Dei.
Rev. Josef Jungmann says:
We [see the Trinitarian interpretation] in Amalar, and the same meaning is impressed on us in all our prayer books and Mass interpretations and Mass devotions, right up to the present: God the Father is invoked three times, God the Son three times, and God the Holy Ghost three times. …] But in reality the Kyrie groups …] are directed at Christ. That is the Pauline and primitive Christian usage, where kurios is generally applied to Christ. (The Mass of the Roman Rite, Vol I, 341)


#3

Thanks for the response. I was looking at the Litany of the Saints, and the same invocation at the beginning appears to be Trinitarian, however, someone please correct me if I am wrong.

From looking at the Order of Mass, it appears that the Kyrie is just directed to the Son.

A brief pause for silence follows.
The Priest, or a Deacon or another minister, then says the following or other
invocations* with Kyrie, eleison (Lord, have mercy): You were sent to heal the contrite of heart:
Lord, have mercy. Or: The people reply:
Lord, have mercy. Or:
The Priest:
Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.
You came to call sinners:
Christ, have mercy. Or: Christe, eleison.
The people:
Christ, have mercy. Or: Christe, eleison.
The Priest:
You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us: Lord, have mercy. Or: Kyrie, eleison.
The people:
Lord, have mercy. Or: Kyrie, eleison.
The absolution by the Priest follows:
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.
The people reply:
Amen.



#4

The margin notes in both of my missals for the traditional Latin Mass say it is directed to all the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

Kyrie as we pray it in the traditional Mass:

Priest: Kyrie, eleison.
Server: Kyrie, eleison.
Priest: Kyrie, eleison.
Server: Christe, eleison.
Priest: Christe, eleison.
Server: Christe, eleison.
Priest: Kyrie, eleison.
Server: Kyrie, eleison.
Priest: Kyrie, eleison.

My 1954 missal notes say:

Note: each Divine Person implored three times.

My 1962 missal notes say:

The Kyrie, all that remains of a longer litany in which the deacon gave out the intentions to be prayed for and the people answered, "Lord, have mercy," has become a threefold prayer to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. It is the last relic of the use of Greek in the early Roman liturgy.

Unless you can find a new teaching on the subject, I would understand the new, shortened Kyrie in the same way as the old one, since our understanding should be informed by tradition.


#5

It certainly is directed to the undivided Trinity in the Divine Liturgy.


#6

[quote="Rich_C, post:4, topic:290178"]
The margin notes in both of my missals for the traditional Latin Mass say it is directed to all the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

Kyrie as we pray it in the traditional Mass:

My 1954 missal notes say:

My 1962 missal notes say:

Unless you can find a new teaching on the subject, I would understand the new, shortened Kyrie in the same way as the old one, since our understanding should be informed by tradition.

[/quote]

Things aren't often said explicitly by way of a teaching, and I would consider all the options for the invocations in the Missal as sufficient evidence that the Kyrie is considered Christological in the new missal. That said, the invocations can be ad libitum, so one could MAKE it a Trinitarian prayer in the new missal if one used Trinitarian invocation or tropes. But from the missal itself, it is Christological.

And while our understanding should be informed by tradition, I would say that a Christological view of the Kyrie can also be regarded as equally traditional as a Trinitarian interpretation. The missal margin notes are for the edification of the faithful - they do not form part of a corpus of 'official teachings'.


#7

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:5, topic:290178"]
It certainly is directed to the undivided Trinity in the Divine Liturgy.

[/quote]

I presume you meant the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil, and I think even there t depends because very often in the liturgy originally Christological invocations became "Trinitarian-ized" in the dogmatic controversies (and occasionally vice versa). The Christological-Trinitarian switch somewhat noticeable in the Byzantine liturgical litanies which often use Lord in an explicitly Christological manner (e.g. "To you, O Lord", "Grant this, O Lord") before switching back to a Trinitarian reference, usually as a doxology.


#8

[quote="Rich_C, post:4, topic:290178"]
The margin notes in both of my missals for the traditional Latin Mass say it is directed to all the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

Kyrie as we pray it in the traditional Mass:

My 1954 missal notes say:

My 1962 missal notes say:

Unless you can find a new teaching on the subject, I would understand the new, shortened Kyrie in the same way as the old one, since our understanding should be informed by tradition.

[/quote]

Not disagreeing with you on the content... but I would like to point out that these are the writings of your hand-missal's producer, not the missale romanum itself...


#9

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