THURSDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF THE GREAT FAST: THE GREAT CANON OF SAINT ANDREW OF CRETE

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THURSDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF THE GREAT FAST:
THE GREAT CANON OF SAINT ANDREW OF CRETE.

"Do Thou grant, O Jesus, easy and means of compunction,
for now, are they singing a great canon to Thee."

Biographical Data of Saint Andrew

The Great Canon was composed by Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete. He is commemorated by the Holy Church on the 4th of July. He was born in Damascus in the year 660 A.D. to his pious parents, George and Gregoria. When Andrew was seven years old, he was still unable to speak. The unhappy lad, however, after much prayer, accompanied his parents to a certain church where he received the Mysteries (Sacraments) and his tongue was loosed. Early in life and while at school, he desired to dedicate his life to Christ. At fifteen, he was placed under the guidance of Bishop Theodore at Jerusalem, during the absence of a Patriarch for that See. Andrew became his spiritual son and secretary. At length, he received the orders of Reader and Subdeacon. In due course, as soon as Andrew became a monk, the Patriarch made him a Deacon and then Archdeacon.

Following these elevations, the holy youth descended into the Judaean Desert near Jerusalem, to spend his time in prayer and contemplation at the well-known Monastery of Saint Savvas. He remained there for ten years, surpassing many of the older monks. Then, one day, after the dismissal of the office of Orthros (Matins) in church, he began to meditate in his cell upon the Biblical events that the canticles glorified. He often felt that attention should be given to the hymns from the Holy Scripture, that is: Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, the hymns of Moses before his repose, the prayers of Hannah, Avvoukoum, Isaiah, Jonas, the holy Three Children, and the words of the Virgin upon the Annunciation; and Zacharias’ prayer for his son John. Therefore, he put into writing his meditations into short verses. For each canticle, he composed several verses which explained or reflected upon the meaning of the Biblical Event. Once he collected the verses, he embellished them by inserting a short refrain between them. The work was complete after he organized the text into nine Odes. When the brotherhood learned of his compositions, they decided to incorporate them into their services. Thus, they chanted the canticles with these short strophes, which came to be known as the Canon. Our Holy Father composed many of these canons, which mostly centered on sin and repentance.

The Great Canon

The Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is the longest Orthodox Canon. "From the end of the 7th century onwards, the kontakion hymn was gradually replaced by the Canon, which used the same basic principles of construction. Following the example of the nine Biblical canticles, it consists of nine (often only eight) odes which each consist of a number of stanzas. Sometimes this results in very voluminous products like, for example, the Great Canon by Saint Andrew of Crete, A PENITENTIAL HYMN OF ABOUT 250 STANZAS.

Nothing else compares with Saint Andrew’s survey of the Old and New Testaments which is a dialogue set to music between Saint Andrew and his soul. The majority of canons contain eight odes, numbered from Ode One to Ode Nine, without that of Ode Two. The most penitential canons comprise all Nine Odes.

The themes are self-evident. One IS URGED TO EXAMINE ONE’S LIFE AND SOUL. An appeal to repent and change recurs, COUNSELING THE SOUL TO IMITATE THE GOOD EXAMPLES PROVIDED IN THE Holy Bible, remembering THAT DEATH and JUDGMENT ARE ALWAYS NEAR. CONFESSION, PENITENCE, LAMENTATION, AND MOURNING ARE PROMOTED THROUGH THE RECOUNTING OF LIFE-ALTERING EVENTS IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. Whether or not Saint Andrew wrote the Canon for his own devotions, IT IS APPLICABLE TO US ALL. Furthermore, the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt is also read when the entire Canon is sung. She had flourished earlier, during the years of the great Justinian I, Emperor from 527-563 A.D. Her biography, a stirring account OF REPENTANCE, was read at the point when the entire Canon was sung. It had been recorded by the holy Sophronios (560-639 A.D.), Patriarch of Jerusalem.

O Venerable Andrew, thrice-blessed Father, who now beholds the
things of God, not through the corruptible senses of the body but
noetically in the powers of the soul, cease not to pray to God for
those who sing of thee, as thou art united with the Almighty.

[Source:  The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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