Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love” (Psalm 51: 1)
Psalm 51 is a familiar Biblical portion for the members of the Mar Thoma Church. As children, most of us have learnt this psalm at home or in the Sunday School. The psalm also occupies a significant place in our common worship. In our liturgy for Sunday worship, Psalm 51 is placed immediately after the introductory Kauma (Adoration), as the prayer of confession. In fact, the psalm assumes a prominent place in the liturgies of most mainline churches. As Martin Luther put it, "There is no other Psalm which is oftener sung or prayed in the church."
As we reflect this week on the theme, “Witness through lent”, it is appropriate that we turn to this psalm. Penance - the repentance of sin - is an integral part of Lent. There is no denying the enormity of the sin David committed. It cannot in any way be excused. Yet, when Prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin, David was filled with remorse. This psalm is the result of David’s remorse and repentance.
True repentance, however, is not only being remorseful of the sins committed in the past but also involves a resolution to move forward in a righteous way. Christian confession also involves the resolution to make a new beginning. This psalm, accordingly, has both these components. While the first twelve verses of the psalm outline the penitent’s confessions and the plea for pardon, the last seven verses sums up his resolution for a new beginning.
Psalm 51 also shows us that over and above all our remorse and resolutions, true confession involves throwing oneself entirely at the mercy of God. This psalm starts with a phrase that is very familiar to us: “Have mercy on me, O God”. This is the phrase that is repeated most in our liturgy: “Lord, have mercy” (Kyrie eleison). The late Rev. C. Philipose, a saintly Achen of our Church during the last century, spent much of his time in prayer and intercession. Towards the end of his life, however, he became too weak to say elaborate prayers. Of that period, he would say: “At times, my only prayer was, “Kyrie eleison”. In this prayer is summed up all our confession, intercession and supplications.
Prayer: We pray for mercy, O Lord; for your mercy on us, sinners and on your creation that we have defaced. We pray for the pardon of our great sins, on account of your great mercies and loving kindness. We pray for mercy, for mercy is the sinner’s attribute. Amen.
Jesudas M. Athyal, Boston MTC