Why the Greek 'Kyrie Eleison' at mass?

I am an undergraduate music student and I am working on a project that explores the question of ‘why the Kyrie Eleison is the only part of the Mass parts that is not in Latin’. I have read through the entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia about its’ history but I didn’t find too much information that answers my question.
Does anyone have any information or guidance that could help me? Sources will be very helpful, too.
Thanks Everyone,

One priest I used know (God rest his soul) explained that the Kyrie is kept in Greek as a way of tying the Mass back to the earliest times when it was said in Greek by the original Apostles themselves. (This was back in the early '80s, before anyone had started doing it in English, yet.) That’s all the explanation I know. I hope it leads you somewhere.

I was taught that the Kyrie was the only Greek that survived the original translation of the Mass into the vulgar (that is to say, common) language of Latin. Apparently, the Greek-speaking end of the Church put their foot down for that much.

One theory says that the Kyrie is the vestige of the Great Ektania (Litany). The response to each petition of the litany was Kyrie Eleison (quite the same as was, and is, in the East). It seems to me the theory is very plausible, particularly considering the Kyrie’s placement within the Order of Mass (at least in the EF and other venerable and ancient usages of the West).

[quote=jmcrae](This was back in the early '80s, before anyone had started doing it in English, yet.)

The “early '80s” …? Is that the 1880’s? :confused:

1980s. The Mass was partly in English, partly in Latin, and the Kyrie remained in Greek. It wasn’t until 1987 that the whole Mass was converted into English - including the Kyrie.

Not quite true. The Alleluia remains in Hebrew.

God Bless

According ;to Rev Joseph A. Jungman S.J., The Mass of the Roman Rite, The Kryrie is not a holdover from the Greek mass. He states that it did not enter the Roman Rite until the fifth century. Apparently it was adopted from the Orient liturgies which introduced it in the fourth century. He goes on for nine pages on its origin which is far more than I can condense. It appears to have been derived from pre-Christian pagan chants of* Eleison.*

Ummm, no, that is not true. The Mass in the USA was a Latin/English hybrid between 1965-1970, and completely vernacular from 1970 (Actually December, 1969) onward. Throughout that time Latin was always permissible for any part of the Mass, as is still is today–though as a practical matter it was infrequently celebrated in Latin until more recent years.

The Greek Kyrie was the norm in the Latin Mass and still is. It also remains an option in a vernacular Mass, and has always been a fairly popular plainchant rendering, even during the years when Latin was used infrequently.

In point of fact, there is one other Greek text remaining in the liturgy, and that is the Trisagion, sung on Good Friday. (“Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal One, have mercy on us.”) This is listed in both the Latin and English editions of the Roman Missal, and there is an option to use the threefold Greek text, or the Latin or vernacular texts. It is part of the Reproaches sung during the veneration of the cross.

Finally, Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians often use the Greek Kyrie, especially when singing it.

Actually, you will find more Greek in other Latin Liturgies of the Western Church.

The Roman was NOT the only Latin liturgy used.

So the question should be phrased as “Why was so little Greek retained in the Roman rite?”

Ummm… Unless I have completely lost my mind, I remember saying the Kyrie in English back in the 1960s. In fact I don’t remember that any of the people’s parts were commonly said in Greek or Latin from about 1966 on, At least in the parts of the United States that I attended Mass (which would be California, Minnesota and states in between), English became the de facto norm very shortly after English was permitted.

Maybe it was different in Canada?

During Holy Week the Hotheos, is alternated between Greek and Latin.

Amen is of Hebrew Origin.

At Solemn Papal Masses using the Extraordinary Rite there is a Greek and Latin Deacon, and the Gospel is solemnly chanted in Latin and Greek.

“Amen” “hosanna” :wink:

I’ve not heard it but I understand that the Trisagion is retained in Greek as well, along with the Hebrew as mentioned.

Off topic: You can hear the Kyrie, some is just Kyrie Eleison, in the Divine Liturgy of Eastern Churches which traditionally has had the liturgy sung in the vernacular of the people. (Like the Hebrew “Alleluia”, which also appears, it can sound somewhat different to a western ear but is still discernible.)

<<At Solemn Papal Masses using the Extraordinary Rite there is a Greek and Latin Deacon, and the Gospel is solemnly chanted in Latin and Greek.>>

Even in the OF, it’s still chanted in both languages at a Mass of Canonization, though when some Slavic saints were beatified, the Gospel in the OF Mass was chanted in both Latin and Slavonic.

Maybe so. When I first started attending Mass in 1983, all of the short prayers were still done in Latin except for the Our Father, which was already in English, whereas the long ones were done in English, and the readings were done in English only (I gather they were done in both English and Latin before). By 1987, everything was in English.

You seem to have missed what I and others have posted here. You may have attended Mass in a place that (thankfully) retained a good deal of Latin, but the fact of the matters is that these changes were made in the mid and late 1960s, and by 1970 the vernacular was completely in use, to say nothing of the 1980s.

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