Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete



Today, being the fifth week of lent, our church worshipped by chanting and praying Matins for Thursday in the Fifth week of the Great Fast or The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.

The Great Canon is a long penitential poem that takes pieces from the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and presents them as either examples of repentance to be followed, or examples of folly to be avoided. After each of the troparia, or stanzas, the cantors and congregation sing "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!" and make a full prostraton.

This was a truly remarkable experience. Humbling, cleansing, clarifying. The service lasted about 4 hours. And we did approximately 220 full prostrations. Suddenly, I knew without a doubt how feeble I am. How weak, steeped in imperfection, and utterly deceptive I am. And how merciful, healing, and loving our Good God is.

Oh, I am sore and tired. My legs feel like jelly, and I forsee great stiffness in the morning. But it was so worth it! My soul is calm, I feel self possesed, in other words, I have more self knowledge than I did yesterday.

Here is a portion of the Canon that really jumped out to me.


"The ladder that the Patriarch Jacob once contemplated is the ascetical effort, the mystical ascent. Oh my soul, if you wish to understand these two, renew yourself and be made new."

"Have mercy on me, O God, Have mercy on me."

"To gain his two wives, the Patriarch endured the heat of day and freezing of night, in labor and combat, cunningly increasing his flock day by day."

"Have mercy on me, O God, Have mercy on me."

"The two wives are action and contemplation; Leah is action, because she had many children; Rachel is knowledge, which is gained only with toil; and we gain the fruit of both of these only with struggle."

"Have mercy on me, O God, Have mercy on me."

"Be watchful, O my soul, and strive as did Jacob, so that you may not only be filled with action, but that you may also gain knowledge and the vision of God, and radiant contemplation, that pearl of great price."

"Have mercy on me, O God, Have mercy on me."

So, do you think it against the spirit of a penitential act to pop a few Advil before I go to bed???

3 Comments:

Anonymous Alexa said...

LOL. I suspect Leah would have!

March 31, 2006  
Blogger Ayekah said...

I think a double dose of Advil is in order!

March 31, 2006  
Blogger Elena said...

That sounds so rich! I wish the Western Rite did more of that type of prayer. Thanks for sharing it. I'm going to look for a link to the entire thing.

April 05, 2006  

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