Thoughts on the Mercy of God

A Liturgical Christian’s Understanding of Mercy

Bryan’s note: As I travel the internet I occasionally find something out of the ordinary.  Something that stands out and blesses me.  The following text is a wonderfully precise definition and application of God’s mercy.  I hope it blesses you the way it blessed me.

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Many people remember the Russian couple, the Rosenbergs, who were tried in court for treason against the United States. The trial was a long and bitter one. As the final sentence was pronounced, the lawyer for the Rosenbergs cried out, “Your Honor, what my clients ask for is justice!”

Judge Kaufman replied, “What the court has given them is what they ask,  justice! What they really want is mercy. But mercy is something this court has no right to give them.”

The One who has the right to give mercy is God.

The Theme of God’s Mercy

This is brought out in the Gospel reading of the Pharisee and the Publican. “God, be merciful to me the sinner,” prayed the Publican. His only plea was for mercy, Kyrie Eleison!  Without this prayer Christianity would be a philosophy, a history, a code but not a religion that saves.

The same theme of God’s mercy is expressed again in the Gospel lesson of the Prodigal Son. Listen to the words of the following hymn from the vesper service of the Prodigal Son:

“As the Prodigal Son I come to you, merciful God. I have wasted my whole life in a foreign land; I have scattered the wealth which You gave me, O Father.

“Receive me in repentance, O God, and have mercy upon me.”

One of the most beautiful examples of God’s mercy is the prodigal son, who leaves home, wastes all his father’s resources in sin, ends up living with pigs, remembers his father, repents, and returns home where he is embraced by the waiting father, who declares a feast to celebrate his return. That is God’s mercy.

The same theme of mercy is emphasized again in the Gospel reading which deals with the second coming of Christ. Listen to the words of the following hymn from the Orthros:

“Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy upon me. I cry to you, when you come with your angels to give to every person due return for his/her deeds.”

From the Matins’ Services of Lent
 After the Gospel reading at matins on each Sunday during Lent, we hear the following beautiful hymns of repentance:

“Open to me the doors of repentance, O Life-Giver …But in your compassion purify me by the loving kindness of your mercy.

“When I think of the many evil things I have done, wretch that I am, I tremble at the fearful day of judgment, but trusting in Your loving-kindness, like David I cry out to You. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy.”

These hymns are preceded by the reading of Psalm 51, one of the most used psalms in Orthodox worship services. In this Psalm, David asks God’s mercy for his sins and proclaims that God’s steadfast love and mercy are greater than the sins of His creatures:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love. According to Thy abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 51.1-2) .

From the Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
 Another place where the call to God for mercy is heard during the first week of Lent is in the penitential canon of St. Andrew of Crete sung each evening during compline. Listen to some of the hymns:

“I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned against you.
Be merciful to me though there is no one whose sins I have not surpassed.
I cry to You, O Lord: Have mercy, have mercy on me!
When You come with Your angels to give due reward to each person for his deeds.

“I have sinned as no other person before,
I have transgressed more than any other, O Lord.
Before the Day of Judgment comes be merciful to me, O Lover of Man.

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”

David once showed us the image of true repentance in a psalm he wrote exposing all that he had done:

“Be merciful to me and cleanse me!” he wrote,

“For against You only have I sinned, the God of our fathers.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!
I have distorted Your image, O Savior, and broken Your commandments.
The beauty of my soul has been spoiled, and its light extinguished by my sins.”
in David’s words, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”

“But have pity on me and,”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!
Return! Return! Uncover what is hidden!”

“Say to God who knows all things:
‘You are my only Savior and know my terrible secrets.’
Yet in David’s words I cry to You:
‘Be merciful to me, O God, according to Your steadfast love.'”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7124

Sunday Funnies: The Other Ten

Thou shall not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.

 

Thou shall not be fearful, for most of the things we fear never come to pass.

 

Thou shall not cross bridges before you come to them, for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.

 

Thou shall face each problem as it comes. You can only handle one at a time anyway.

 

Thou shall not take problems to bed with you, for they make very poor bedfellows.

 

Thou shall not borrow other people’s problems. They can better care for them than you can.

 

Thou shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill, it is forever gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now!

 

Thou shall be a good listener, for only when you listen do you hear different ideas from your own. It is hard to learn something new when you are talking, and some people do know more than you do.

 

Thou shall not become “bogged down” by frustration, for 90% of it is rooted in self-pity and will only interfere with positive action.

 

Thou shall count thy blessings, never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.

                                                                                                            

     – Author Unknown

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C.S. Lewis takes on the Incarnation

 
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .
 
“In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.
 
But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
 
Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.
 
In this descent and re-ascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends.
 
It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult.
 
So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth–go down to go up–it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.
 
The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre.  The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God.  All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key.  I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.  The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Re-birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.” 
 
C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 112, 115-17.

A Wing and a Prayer– Thomas Merton

 How close God is to us when we come to recognize and to accept our abjection and to cast our care entirely upon Him!  Against all human expectation He sustains us when we need to be sustained …  Hope is always just about to turn into despair, but never does so, for at the moment of supreme crisis God’s power is suddenly made perfect in our infirmity. So we learn to expect His mercy most calmly when all is most dangerous, to seek Him quietly in the face of peril… 

 Our weakness has opened Heaven to us, because it has brought the mercy of God down to us and won us His love. Our unhappiness is the seed of all our joy. Even sin has played an unwilling part in saving sinners, for the infinite mercy of God cannot be prevented from drawing the greatest good out of the greatest evil.  

When the Lord hears my prayer for mercy (a prayer which is itself inspired by the action of His mercy), then He makes His mercy present and visible in me by moving me to have mercy on others as He has had mercy on me. This is the way in which God’s mercy fulfils His divine justice: mercy and justice seem to us to differ, but in the works of God they are both expressions of His love.       

Yet it is precisely in punishing sin that God’s mercy most evidently identifies itself with His justice.  The mercy of God does not suspend the laws of cause and effect. When God forgives me a sin, He destroys the guilt of sin, but the effects and the punishment of sin remain. 

   

Thomas Merton, in No Man Is an Island, Burns & Oates, 1955   

    

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Thomas Merton’s Prayer

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
  
  
 
– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
 
 

Saturday’s Daily Photo Shoot

My Dad, with his brother, on the porch, c. 1944 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

 This seems to me as a sad photo of my father.  It puts me in a melancholic mood.  My Dad is the little boy on the left with the pensive look.

Homer, Alaska-- my home

 Some stock photo, I like them a little less polished.  Homer is one of the prettiest locales in Alaska.  I love living here (when I’m not depressed).

My family, Dad, Mom and my brother Scott (Mom is holding Eric). I'm the tall kid, standing behind my father, c. 1973

2000 Hits!

Celebrating 2000 Hits!

Just arrived at a milestone which I honestly never imagined.  Brokenbelievers.com has just had its 2000th hit!  Thank you everyone for making this possible.  I have a real pumped feeling about this [if you couldn’t tell already] and God is good.

 

FYI. Photo is of Vernon Mickey– First Baseman for the Washington Senators and the Indians, Red Sox, Braves and Pirates.

  • 7-time All-Star (1946, ’48, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’58)
  • Top 10 in MVP voting 3 times (1946, ’53, ’54), coming the closest in 1953 finishing 3rd behind Al Rosen and Yogi Berra
  • 2-time batting champion (1946, ’53)
  • Led the league in doubles three times (1946, ’53, ’54)
  • Top 10 in the league in triples 9 times (1941, ’43, ’46, ’47, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’55)
  • 2nd in the league in hits twice (1946, ’53)
  • Participated in 2,044 double plays, the most in major league history
  • source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Vernon