Kyrie, a transliteration of Greek Κύριε, vocative case of Κύριος (Kyrios), is a common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy, also called the Kyrie eleison / / (Greek: Κύριε, ελέησον, Kýrie eléison).
In the New Testament
The prayer, "Kyrie, eleison," "Lord, have mercy" derives from several New Testament verses in particular. In Matthew 15:22, the Caanaanite woman cries out to Jesus, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David." In Matthew 20:30, 31, two unnamed blind men call out to Jesus, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David." Finally, in Mark 10:46, Blind Bartimaeus cries out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." There are other examples too, Luke 18:38 and Matthew 9:27, but the phrase, "Lord, have mercy" was well-enough established in the gospel narratives to become the basis for the use of "Kyrie, eleison" as a liturgical prayer.
In Eastern Christianity
The various litanies, frequent in that rite, generally have Lord, have mercy as their response, either singly or triply. Some petitions in these litanies will have twelve or even forty repetitions of the phrase as a response.
The phrase is the origin of the Jesus Prayer, beloved by Christians of that rite and increasingly popular amongst Western Christians.
The biblical roots of this prayer first appear in 1 Chronicles 16:34
...give thanks to the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures for ever...
The prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will continue to do. It is refined in the Parable of The Publican (Luke 18:9-14), "God, have mercy on me, a sinner", which shows more clearly its connection with the Jesus Prayer.
Since the early centuries of Christianity, the Greek phrase, Kýrie, eléison, is also extensively used in the Coptic (Egyptian) Christian liturgy, which uses both the Coptic and the Greek language.
In Western Christianity
In Rome, the sacred Liturgy was first celebrated in Greek. As Christianity gained popularity, the Roman Mass was translated into Latin, but the familiar and venerated Greek prayer Kýrie, eléison was preserved, as were Hebrew phrases such as "Alleluia" and "Hosanna". Jungmann and other scholars conjecture that the Kyrie in the Roman Mass is a vestige of a litany at the beginning of the Mass, like that of some Eastern churches.
As early as the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great notes that there were differences in the way in which eastern and western churches sang Kyrie. In the eastern churches all sing it at the same time, whereas in the western church the clergy sing it and the people respond. Also the western church sang Christe eleison as many times as Kyrie eleison.
In the Roman Rite liturgy, a variant, Christe, eléison, a transliteration of Greek Χριστέ, ἐλέησον, is introduced.
"Kyrie, eleison" (or "Lord, have mercy") may also be used as a response of the people to intentions mentioned in the Prayer of the Faithful.
Since 1549, Anglicans have normally sung or said the Kyrie in English. In the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, the Kyrie was inserted into a recitation of the Ten Commandments. Modern revisions of the Prayer Book have restored the option of using the Kyrie without the Commandments.
Other denominations also, such as Lutheranism, use "Kyrie, eleison" in their liturgies.
Kyrie as section of the Mass ordinary
In the Tridentine Mass form of the Roman Rite, Kýrie, eléison is sung or said three times, followed by a threefold Christe, eléison and by another threefold Kýrie, eléison. In the Paul VI Mass form, each invocation is made only once by the celebrating priest or by a cantor, with a single repetition, each time, by the congregation. Even if Mass is celebrated in the vernacular, the Kyrie may be in Greek. This prayer occurs directly following the Penitential Rite or is incorporated in that rite as one of the three alternative forms provided in the Roman Missal. The Penitential Rite and Kyrie may be replaced by the Rite of Sprinkling.
In modern Anglican churches, it is common to say (or sing) either the Kyrie or the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, but not both. In this case, the Kyrie may be said in penitential seasons like Lent and Advent, while the Gloria is said the rest of the year. Anglo-Catholics, however, usually follow Roman norms in this as in most other liturgical matters.
- Kyrie eleison (Κύριε ἐλέησον)
- Lord, have mercy
- Christe eleison (Χριστέ ἐλέησον)
- Christ, have mercy
In the Tridentine Mass, the Kyrie is the first sung prayer of the Mass ordinary. It is usually (but not always) part of any musical setting of the Mass. Kyrie movements often have an ternary (ABA) musical structure that reflects the symmetrical structure of the text. Musical settings exist in styles ranging from Gregorian chant to Folk.
The original pronunciation in Medieval Greek was [ˈcyri.e eˈle.ison xrisˈte eˈle.ison], just when the Byzantine Rite was in force. The transliteration of ἐλέησον as "eléison" shows that the post-classical itacist pronunciation of the Greek letter eta (η) is used. Although the Greek words have seven syllables (Ký-ri-e, e-lé-i-son), pronunciations as six syllables (Ký-ri-e, e-léi-son) or five (Ký-rie, e-léi-son) have been used.
In Ecclesiastical Latin a variety of pronunciations are used, the italianate [ˈkirie eˈleison krisˈte eˈleison] having been proposed as a standard. Text underlay in mediaeval and Renaissance music attests that "Ký-ri-e-léi-son" (five syllables) was the most common setting until perhaps the mid-16th century. William Byrd's Mass for Four Voices is a notable example of a musical setting originally written with five syllables in mind, later altered for six syllables.
Kyrie is almost invariably a part of musical settings of the mass, including Requiems or Masses for the Dead. Certain kinds of German carol are called Leisen after the use of Kyrieleis, Kyrio-leis, Kirleis or Krles as a refrain.
- In World of Warcraft a ghostly version of Kyrie Eleison plays when the character has died and releases their spirit.
- Tom Lehrer's satirical song "The Vatican Rag" (1965) includes "Kyrie eleison" in its lyrics.
- The band Mr. Mister released the single "Kyrie" in late 1985. The song was covered by East To West in 1993, and by AVB in 1994. Clay Aiken has also performed the song during tours. Mark Schultz remixed the single in his 2002 album Song Cinema.
- Michael Nyman and Trevor Jones have composed settings of the Kyrie for film music.
- In the 1963 film Lord of the Flies, based on the novel by William Golding and directed by Peter Brook, the choir boys sing "Kyrie eleison".
- The Kyrie section of György Ligeti's Requiem is heard during appearances of the Monolith in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- A version of the Kyrie by The Electric Prunes (1967) is heard in the soundtrack of the 1969 film Easy Rider.
- In the film Excalibur, the musical score for Arthur's wedding to Guinevere is a Kyrie.
- In Disney's 1996 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, "Kyrie, eleison" can be heard in some musical numbers and songs. Most prominently, it is repeated in the chorus near the end of the "Hellfire" portion of "Heaven's Light/Hellfire", and in the background chorus of "The Bells of Notre Dame". It also appears in the score tracks "Paris Burning", "Sanctuary!", and "And He Shall Smite the Wicked".
- In the musical Notre Dame de Paris the line "Kyrie, eleison" is sung by Quasimodo.
- In the 1996 Broadway musical Rent and its 2004 film adaptation, at the beginning of the number "La vie Boheme", Collins and Roger quote the text of the Kyrie as part of a mock requiem for "the death of Bohemia".
- In Ever After, "Kyrie eleison" is being sung by the choir during the wedding of Prince Henry to the Spanish princess.
- The 2006 anime series Death Note showcased an atmospheric rendition of the Kyrie chant with orchestra and vocals.
- Civilization IV's soundtrack for the Medieval era includes a Kyrie by Johannes Ockeghem.
- The title character in the book The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux composes a wedding song entitled "Kyrie eleison".
- Judee Sill (1944-1979), American folk singer, incorporated the "Kyrie Eleison" in her song, "The Donor" on her album Heart Food, 1973.
- One of Medieval II: Total War's main menu soundtrack includes a modified, more ominous version of "Kyrie eleison".
- As a song titled "Kyrie Eleison" by the Balkan ensemble Stellamara, in the album "The Seven Valleys".
- The song Dogma included on Titan (album), the latest album of the greek metal band Septicflesh, contains the quote "Salve Kyrie" in its chorus.
- The Lord of the Flies choir version of the song plays during the end credits of the season one finale of Vice Principals (2016).
- The music played during the opening sequence of Elfen Lied, an anime released in 2004, contains the phrase, Kyrie, ignis divine, eleison , translating (?) to Lord, fire divine, have mercy
In various languages
- "Definitions for Medieval Christian Liturgy: Kyrie eleison". Yale.
- Jungmann, J. The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development. New York 1951: Benzinger Brothers. pp. num. 322ss.
- Gregory the Great, Epistles 9: 26, trans. Baldovin, Urban Worship, 244-245
- "Tom Lehrer - The Vatican Rag - fabulous version - LIVE FILM From Copenhagen in 1967". YouTube. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
- Milchgans (2010-04-23), Medieval 2; total war soundtrack - menu music, retrieved 2016-06-09
- Berndt, Guido M. (2016-04-15). Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed. Routledge. ISBN 9781317178651.
- Hoppin, Richard. Medieval Music. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1978. ISBN 0-393-09090-6. Pages 133–134 (Gregorian chants), 150 (tropes).