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The Great Canon of St. Andrew (with download links)

St. Andrew of Crete

The Great Canon of St Andrew, Bishop of Crete, 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 (in this latter service, the entire life of St Mary of Egypt is also read).

There is no other sacred hymn which compares with this monumental work, which St Andrew wrote for his personal meditations. Nothing else has its extensive typology and mystical explanations of the scripture, from both the Old and New Testaments. One can almost consider this hymn to be a “survey of the Old and New Testament”. Its other distinguishing features are a spirit of mournful humility, hope in God, and complex and beautiful Trinitarian Doxologies and hymns to the Theotokos in each Ode.

The canon is a dialog between St. Andrew and his soul. The ongoing theme is an urgent exhortation to change one’s life. St 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 OT and NT to “convince himself” to repent.

A canon is an ancient liturgical hymn, with a very strict format. It consists of a variable number of parts, each called an “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”).

The Most Important Thing to Know About the Great Canon

The Great Canon was written by a holy man to teach himself the right way to live. We cannot benefit from it unless we make it a priority to stand in prayer, in the church, and listen to it, with a great desire and expectation for God’s grace to teach us and heal us. Our theology is first and foremost – experienced and prayed, and not only “studied”.

Courtesy of Fr. Wayne E. Wilson of St. Barnabas Orthodox Church.

Links to Compline and the Great Canon

St. Peter's is not yet in the position to provide books for everyone to follow. However, you can print out a copy of Compline and the Great Canon on the Antiochian Diocese of the West website.

Go to: Great Compline with the Great Canon of Repentance


Print out Great Compline here

Print out the Great Canon sections here:

Part 1 (completed on Monday)
Part 2 (Tuesday evening)
Part 4 (Thursday evening)

Click the link. A new window will open. Print it out.

Lenten Schedule This Week

Monday February 23
6:00pm — Compline and Canon of St. Andrew

Tuesday February 24
6:00pm — Compline and Canon of St. Andrew

Wednesday February 25
6:00pm — Pre-Sanctified Liturgy

Thursday February 26
6:00pm — Compline and Canon of St. Andrew

Friday February 27
Akathist Hymn