“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt 5:7)

The word “mercy” is so often mentioned in Byzantine church-services, particularly in the brief prayer, “Lord, have mercy” (Kyrie eleison). The Greek word for “mercy” (eleos) means much more than some external “withholding of punishment” (which is what we usually understand it to mean in English). It is a divine energy; that is to say, its source is God – so we constantly ask Him for it. In our terms it is an internal disposition; an overflowing of the heart with compassionate, self-giving love. So, when I ask God for “mercy,” I am asking not only to receive it, but to carry it further; to be a vessel of His “mercy” in this world.

I often don’t notice the small opportunities I have, on a daily basis, to “have mercy” or “show mercy.” There may be a person or people dependent on me in some way, looking to me, in some small way, for compassion or at least recognition. Today I can take my demands and expectations of them a notch down; it might make their day to hear an encouraging word from me, rather than criticism.

And I myself fall into this category, of people in need of my “mercy”: I can be gentler with myself today, letting go of unreasonable demands and expectations, and remembering to take care of myself, with God’s nourishing word, and in the Spirit of His divine “mercy.”