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12. The Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete


The Great Canon of Saint Andrew, is the longest canon in all of our services, and is associated with Great Lent, since the only times it is appointed to be read in church are the first four nights of Great Lent (Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, at Great Compline, when it is serialized) and at Matins for Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent, when it is read in its entirety.


The canon is a dialog between Saint Andrew and his soul. The ongoing theme is an urgent exhortation to change one's life. Saint Andrew always mentions his own sinfulness placed in juxtaposition to God's mercy, and uses literally hundreds of references to good and bad examples from the Old Testament and New Testament to "convince himself" to repent.


"Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls" (Hymn from the Canon).


A canon is an ancient liturgical hymn, with a very strict format. It consists of a variable number of parts, each called and "ode". Most common canons have eight Odes, numbered from one to nine, with Ode 2 being omitted. The most penitential canons have all nine odes. Some canons have only three Odes, such as many of the canons in the Triodion (which means "Three Odes"). In any case, all Odes have the same basic format. An "Irmos" begins each Ode. A variable number of "troparia" follow, which are short hymns about the subject of the canon. The Great Canon consists of twelve Odes and has two hundred and fifty troparia (hymns).




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Page created: 19-3-2013.

Last update: 19-3-2013.