Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Great Canon: the Bible Alive and Speaking to Us

Dear Parish Faithful,

“Have Mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me”

We chanted the second part of St. Andrew of Crete’s Canon of Repentance yesterday evening, and the church was quite filled with children, teens and adults.  That is always highly encouraging, perhaps especially so during the first week of Great Lent when we enter into the spirit of the season.   As I like to say:  A good beginning is much more conducive to a good ending.  Hopefully that will continue this evening as we gather together again for the third part of the Canon.  For those unfortunately unfamiliar with this extraordinary Lenten  liturgical work, St. Andrew’s canon (a highly structured work combining prayer, theology and hymnography) weaves together a deeply profound cry of repentance based on both the Old and New Testaments – though drawing on the Old even more extensively than the New.  He employs the major figures of the Bible – both the righteous and the unrighteous – as images to be either imitated or rejected.   He speaks directly to our “soul” often in a convicting manner by reminding us of our sorry tendency to imitate the unrighteous in our pursuit of vain pleasures which leads to sin:

I have made mine the sin of Adam; I know myself deprived of God, of the eternal Kingdom and of bliss because of my sins …

I have not assumed the righteousness of Abel, O Jesus, not having offered to Thee either an acceptable gift, or divine deed, or pure sacrifice, or life immaculate …

Or,  in an encouraging manner the various troparia call us to imitate the righteous in a manner that will liberate our soul from sinful impulses:

Christ strengthened a paralytic, enabling him to rise and walk; He raised death a widow’s son, and healed the servant of a Roman officer.  By revealing Himself to the woman of Samaria, He made clear to you, O my soul, how to worship God in the Spirit.

Thus, we “apply” or “actualize” the Scriptures in an existential manner. This makes the Bible fully alive and a true “word” of God that speaks directly to us today.

The third part of the Canon of Repentance of St. Andrew of Crete will begin this evening at 7:00 p.m.

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