Jonathan Ryder jpr1001 at cam.ac.uk
Thu Jul 15 04:00:59 EDT 1999

"Larry J. Swain" wrote:
> Jim West wrote:
> > At 07:40 AM 7/15/99 +1200, you wrote:
> >
> > >>Well actually that song is based on the latin phrase "kyrie eleison"- from
> > >>the latin mass wherein the mercy of God is invoked through Christ.
> > >
> > >ummm are you sure??  The phrase appears in  MT 17.15.  (GNT) and don't sound
> > >very latin
> > >to me.  It is also part of the *Jesus prayer* used in Taise and
> > >contemplative prayer.
> >
> > I am 100% positive.  First, it is a latin phrase, and second, the writer of
> > the song was intereviewed and said as much.
> Actually you're both right.  The phrase itself is very Greek and does indeed appear
> in Matthew 17:15.  It is taken up into the Latin liturgy as early as can be traced
> and was taken over wholesale as the West adopted Latin as its official language as
> were many other Greek terms and phrases taken into Christian Latin.  So from a
> certain perspective it is indeed "Latin" since most folks who know the Latin mass
> or hours and are familiar with the phrase know it only from Latin, not Greek.  But
> in origin it is indeed a Graecism.
> Hope that helps a mite or two,
> Larry Swain

Just to add my twopence worth.

I was always taught (in Music classes for what its worth) that the kyrie eleison
was the only Greek bit of the mass, the rest being in the sort of Latin we did
in our Latin classes, which is why when we came to read the mass with our
smattering of Latin (5 yrs study) we couldn't understand that bit - 'Aha! That's
Greek you see!'. So it's only Latin in as far as its used in the text of the
mass which is mainly in Latin. I expect if you look the words up in an average
Latin dictionary you won't find them - in fact in a good classical Latin
dictionary you would be hard pressed (You won't find either word in Perseus' 
Latin Dictionary for example). You'd probably need a dictionary of
ecclesiastical Latin.

So the upshot of all that is that its Greek not Latin, and I'd doubt whether the
words are even Greek loanwords in Latin, bit there will be those on the list
whose Latin is better than mine.

Jonathan Ryder

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