Sunday, March 20, 2011

Library Lady - Kyrie

I'm back for Kyrie week!  This time I want to talk about a book for the kids and for the adults.  For the kids, I suggest the title "Mama, Do You Love Me?" by Barbara M. Joose.  It's a beautifully illustrated story about an Inuit mother and daughter.  The story is specific to the arctic, with descriptions of mukluks and puffins, so it's an opportunity to talk about Inuit culture and the geography of Alaska and Canada.

The story also relates perfectly to the theme of mercy.  The little girl begins the story by asking her mother "Do you love me?"  The mother replies with strong metaphors about the vast extent of her love.  The girl proceeds to suggest all kinds of hypothetical situations where she makes mistakes or something bad happens.  In response to each, the mother affirms her love.  Even when she is angry, she tells her daughter, she still loves her.

It's important to notice that we need mercy most when we have erred.  Mercy doesn't spring from a Zen-like calm; it isn't simply a synonym for gentleness or kindness.  Instead, mercy is most vital when there has been offense and anger.  Like children who have made a mess, we sin, and even in frustration and anger, God forgives us.

Portia makes that same point eloquently in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice."  (That's a picture of Maggie Smith playing the role; she's one of my favortie actresses!)  When she rescues Antonio in court in Act IV, Portia notes that mercy cannot be compelled in one of the most famous passages ever written:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.  It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The value of mercy is precisely that it is a voluntary gift that lies outside the law.  What a perfect metaphor for God's forgiveness of our sins!  I hope the stories help you understand and contemplate the meaning of Kyrie, and I'll be back next week.

1 comment:

  1. While I would agree with you on the need for mercy when we err, we also need mercy when we "succeed" since even in our successes we fall short (Niebuhr and Original Sin). This might be supported by the fatal flaw in so many of the Shakespeare's leading characters.