Today begins the reading of the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, which is read during the first four days of Lent during Great Compline, and then in its entirety on Thursday of the fifth week. Metropolitan Kallistos writes the following:
With its constant refrain, 'Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me,' the Great Canon forms a prolonged confession of sin, an unremitting call to repentance. At the same time, it is a meditation on the whole body of Scripture, embracing all the sinners and all the righteous from the creation of the world to the coming of Christ. Here, more than anywhere else in the Triodion, we experience Lent as a reaffirmation of our 'Biblical roots.' Throughout the Great Canon the two levels, the historical and the personal, are skillfully interwoven. 'The events of the sacred history are revealed as events of my life; God's acts in the past as acts aimed at me and my salvation, the tragedy of sin and betrayal as my personal tragedy.'In Ode Nine of the Great Canon we read the following verses:
I have put before thee, my soul, Moses' account of the creation of the word, and after that all the recognized Scripture that tell thee the story of the righteous and the wicked. But thou, my soul, hast followed the second of these, not the first, and hast sinned against God.Is there really anything that can be added to this? The Great Canon can be read online here.
The Law is powerless, the Gospel of no effect, and the whole of Scripture is ignored by thee; the prophets and all the words of the righteous are useless. Thy wounds, my soul, have been multiplied, and there is no physician to heal thee.
I bright thee, O my soul, examples from the New Testament, to lead thee to compunction. Follow the example of the righteous, turn away from the sinful, and through prayer and fasting, through chastity and reverence, win back Christ's mercy.
Christ became man, calling to repentance thieves and harlots. Repent, my soul, the door of the Kingdom is already open, and pharisees and publicans and adulterers pass through it before thee, changing their life.
The irmos of the first ode can be heard chanted in Slavonic here (text: "He is my Helper and Protector, and has become my salvation. This is my God and I will glorify Him. My father's God and I will exalt Him. For gloriously has He been glorified.")
Icon: St Andrew of Crete, author of the Great Canon.