Mercy from the inner womb

The Spirit of Compassion by Raynor Hoff (1894&...
The Spirit of Compassion by Raynor Hoff (1894–1937), carved from marble on the South Australian National War Memorial, unveiled in 1931. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Healthy are they who from the inner womb birth forth compassion,
they shall feel its warm arms embracing them.

(Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy)

Mercy is often depicted as the grudging letting go of rightful retribution or discipline for a wrong, along the lines of “OK, I’ll let you off this time,but you’re on notice. Don’t let it happen again.” It is often associated with a Western understanding of jurisprudence, allowing for some melioration of the hardness of the cold scales of justice

The word in Greek is eleos, taken after the god Eleos renowned in Hellenistic mythology for pity and compassion. The stories relate to shelter and reprieve for those caught in the maelstrom of political and military conflict.

The translation from Aramaic reinforces not only the notion, but the depth of commitment and nurture behind compassion. Indeed it is a quality that is birthed rather than decided. It is warm and flowing, eschewing all association with jurisprudence.

We may know some such merciful ones.

Recent attention on Uganda has contrasted the viral Stop Kony campaign (for justice) and not so well known rebuilding programs such as those run by the Irene Gleeson Foundation which provides shelter, food, health care, education and vocation for former child soldiers and the following generations. The latter is the face of mercy.



Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

3 thoughts on “Mercy from the inner womb

  1. Once again these translations dumbfound me. The inner womb: what an accepting metaphor, and how wonderful of a male Lord to use a female image -which has often been despised- as the fount of compassion. Bit teary here. No wonder he got his feet washed in nard and tears.

    On this subject, your translations came to mind keenly when I was listening to the words I have heard a thousand times before, the words of the passion. I though, how amazing it would be to hear this in a translation closer to the Aramaic.

    Do you know of anywhere which has done this, WP?


  2. Kate, your response is similar to those in my circle who have been meditating on these passages. They describe a deeper awareness of being cherished and held, as if layers of their identity have been permeated and marinaded in the benevolence and love of the Creator. I came across these translations primarily through the visit earlier this year of Diarmuid O’Murchu of the Sacred Heart Missionary Order based in Dublin (he’s on the web at I also recalled conversations with our local Syrian Orthodox folk whose Syriac scriptures are drawn from the ancient Aramaic sources and I have ordered some Syriac-English texts and am searching out a Syriac interlinear translation of the Scriptures. I am fascinated first with the richness of the only translations from the Aramaic texts I’ve seen – that of the Our Father and the Beatitudes, and then with the responses of others who take time to sit with them. Be assured that when I find out more I’ll be posting about it.


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