The Fifth Week of Lent: Why the Great Penitential Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is read in full?
This article describes the significance of the Great Penitential Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, which is read on the Thursday of the fifth week of Lent. The author of the canon, the life of Saint Andrew, and its importance to the Orthodox Church are also discussed.
The Penitential Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete: Abundant Troparia and Deep Repentance.
The Fifth Week of Great Lent is marked by the complete reading of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete on Thursday of this week. The Great Canon is a collection of 250 troparia that was read in parts during the first four days of the Lenten season, and it is accompanied by the story of the life of St. Mary of Egypt as an example of true repentance from the depths of sin to the heights of righteousness.
The author of the Great Canon, St. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, was born into a family of devout Christians in the city of Damascus. As a child, he was mute until the age of seven. Then, after receiving Holy Communion, he began to speak. From that time on, the young boy intensively studied Holy Scripture and theology.
The Great Canon is not only named for its unusually large number of verses, but also for its internal dignity, the height of its thoughts, and the power of their expression. In it, we contemplate the events described in the Old and New Testaments in a spiritual light.
St. Andrew’s repentance is deep and sincere. One idea runs through the entire canon, repeated in all of its songs: “I have sinned more than all men, only I have sinned against You, (O Lord), but have mercy and be merciful to me, for You are Merciful.” “Merciful” means compassionate and merciful, like a mother who, as if with all her womb, all her being, pities her child and loves it with all her heart. The closer a person is to God, the more they see their sins. St. Andrew of Crete teaches us this in his canon.
During the Great Lenten season, the Orthodox Church offers us these hymns because fasting is a time of repentance and purification. The canon of St. Andrew is aimed at awakening the human soul from its sinful slumber, revealing to it the destructiveness of the sinful state, calling for self-judgment and repentance, disgust for sins, and a correction of life. According to St. Andrew of Crete, our only possibility to return to paradise and be reunited with God is through repentance.