Posts Tagged ‘Great Lent’

The Great Canon of of Saint Andrew of Crete important repentance landmark in the Great Lent Church time

Monday, April 19th, 2021


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The Great Canon and Great example of Repentance

Every year the Great Lent, in the Orhodox Church an important part of the Fasting time and Church faithful meeting for the Services is the reading of the so called "Great Canon" .
Canon of Repentance  was composed in the distant seventh century by a notable saint in the Church saint Andrew of Crete (Greek: Ἀνδρέας Κρήτης, c. 650 – July 4, 712 or 726 or 740), also known as Andrew of Jerusalem.
He was an 8th-century bishop, theologian, homilist, and hymnographer. He is highly venerated in our One Holy Eastern Orthodox and considered in saint in the Catholic Church as well.

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His life's most important work The Great Canon prayed in singing form during every Great Lent period in the Church since then and is example for Christians for how a repentance's set stone should be set and which are the main positive and negative personages we know from the holy bible scriptures.  The Great Canon is known well and sung often by dedicated Christians even in their home in or outside of the great lent period.
The canon expresses the overall understanding of the Church through times for good and bad examples of how a man should live, if he wants to have a good life in Christ and what he should abstain and not do if he wants to accept in deed and "utilize" so to say the Salvation given by Christ on the Cross.

The Great Canon was composed by saint Adnrew in the Seventh Century ! And preserved its preserved its form and content up to this very day. 
It is  lenghtly one as it is a Church services that lasts sometimes from 1 hour 50 minutes hour or even up to 2 hours 50 hours if performed with a  Bishop or a Metropolitan. The Saint Andrews Canon is red every day in the First week during first of Great Lent divided by IV parts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Great Canon Content

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Great Canon text consists of four parts, each divided into nine odes like any other regular church canon.
There are slight differences between the odes of the two compositions. In the Great Canon, there is a greater number of troparia (songs sung in honour of a Biblical major event, a saint veneration song or other song with content to glorify the miracles of Christ).
A common remembering part of the Canon heard is the begging "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
At the refrain "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me," a full prostration (a bow to the ground). is performed Also, some of the odes have additional refrains and troparia to the author of the canon, St. Andrew of Crete, and Saint Mary of Egypt who spend 47 years hermit life in the desert and is one of the greatest models of repentance in Christian history.

A basic distinguishing feature of the Great Canon is its extremely broad use of images and subjects taken both from the Old and New Testaments. As the Canon progresses, the congregation encounters many biblical examples of sin and repentance. The Bible (and therefore, the Canon) speaks of some individuals in history in a positive light, and about others in a negative one—the penitents are expected to emulate the positive examples of sanctity and repentance, and to learn from and avoid the negative examples of sin, fallen nature and pride. However, one of the most notable aspects of the Canon is that it attempts to potray the Biblical images in a very personal way to every penitent: the Canon is written in such form that the faithful identify themselves with many people and events found in the Bible.
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The earliest manuscript we know of attesting to the Great Canon (with a slightly different order of troparia and a shorter composition) is the Studite Triodion of the middle of the second half of the ninth century, stored in the library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.
This manuscript has the Canon in hits original place in the services of Great Lent – at Matins of Thursday in the fifth week (when the life of St. Mary of Egypt is read). 
Only later does it also appear at Compline of the first four days of the first week.

The Canon is a soul-piercing, heartfelt lament of the righteous for his sins. The very beginning: “Where shall I begin to weep for the action of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, in this my lamentation? (Ode 1)—attunes the soul for mourning and repentance, for the “wounding of the heart.”

The author of the Canon laments not only for himself, but for all mankind that has sinned. He recalls every transgression, every fall, from Adam to the New Testament. The majority of the Canon—eight odes—consists of Old Testament examples. St. Andrew doesn’t just recall the sins of the forefathers, but he experiences them as his own: “I have rivaled in transgression Adam the first-formed man, and I have found myself stripped naked of God” (Ode 1).

The transgressions of the forefathers become prototypes of the passions that torment a man: “Instead of the visible Eve, I have the Eve of the mind: the passionate thought in my flesh” (Ode 1). Or another example: “To whom shall I liken thee, O soul of many sins? Alas! To Cain and to Lamech. For thou hast stoned thy body to death with thine evil deeds, and killed thy mind with thy disordered longings (Ode 2: “See now, see”). Here St. Andrew follows St. Maximus the Confessor, for whom Cain is “the acquisition, the law of the flesh,” rising up against Abel, that is, the mind, according to the symbolic interpretation, and killing him. This is what St. Maximus writes: “Had Abel kept guard over himself and had he not gone out with Cain into the field, that is, into the plain of natural contemplation, before attaining dispassion, then Cain, who is and is called the law of the flesh would not have risen up and killed him” (Ad Thalassium 49).

If in the Canon St. Andrew recalls examples of Old Testament and New Testament righteousness, then it is first of all in order to reproach his soul for sloth and for sinfulness and to call it to imitation, for example: “O miserable and wicked soul, imitate the righteous and pure mind of Joseph; and do not live in wantonness, sinfully indulging thy disordered desires” (Ode 5).

The Canon is a broad historical panorama outlining the history of human sin and human righteousness, of the rejection and acceptance of God. The contents of the Canon are deeply Christ-centered, with heartfelt appeals to Christ in every ode, for example: “May the Blood from Thy side be to me a cleansing fount, and may the water that flows with it be a drink of forgiveness. May I be purified by both, O Word, anointed and refreshed, having as chrism and drink Thy words of life” (Ode 4). The only way of purification for St. Andrew is in Christ, through sobriety, feat (podvig), and all time giving and living all for God.

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The Great Canon of St. Andrew is, undoubtedly, based on a robust Patristic foundation, with quotes from St. Meletius of Sardis, St. Ephraim of Syria, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Maximus the Confessor. And the merit of St. Andrew of Crete is that he was able to synthesize their experience and imprint it into the Canon.

What is given to us in the Canon of Repentance of St. Andrew of Crete is the Biblical, ecclesiastical, truly universal experience of repentance, of the stinging of the heart, of the excruciating removal of the old, dead man and the putting on of the New Adam, in Christ Jesus, our Lord, to Whom glory is unto the ages of ages.

Minsk Monastery trip to saint Elizabeth’s Nun Convent – Spiritual realms of Belarus

Monday, April 7th, 2014

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If you happen to be in Belarus's capital Minsk and you're a Christian you would definitely will be interested to see the spiritual side of Belarus. I was in Minsk with my wife for a month and had the chance to go for a pilgrimage in st. Elisaberth's Orthodox Christian Convent.

In Belarus about 80% of population of population are Orthodox Christians with about 7% Catholics, some 4% protestants and 9% atheists. I'm Orthodox Christian myself so mostly I kept interest in exoeriencing Orthodox religion life there. The religious life in Belarus so deeply impressed me so I decided to even document it here.

I was in a couple of Orthodox Churches during the Great Lent first week attending afternoon (Great) Repentence services canon of St. Andrew of Crete. And was amazed how many people are religious in this God fearful country. All Churches where I was during the Great Canon or Holy Liturgy was so full of people that you cannot even enter the Church if you're late for the service. People attending were also very concentrated on the service and most of the people came to services bringing most of which holding a book with the Great Repentance Canon following the service and concentrated in praying and doing ground prostrations. One thing to note is Belarusian Orthodox Church is a sub-division of Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), Belarusian doesn't have their own patriarch but are under the patriarchy of Russian and all Moscow patriarch – Kiril I.

Few weeks ago for Sunday of All Orthodoxy (Triumph of All orthodoxy) for Holy Liturgy service me and Svetlana with a close friend of her Tatyiana went to St. Elisabeth's Monastery. 
Monastery is named in honour of St. Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova – which is the last Russian Grand Princess of the Romanov family later executed with her husband and kids by Communists Bolsheviks, canonized by ROC in the 1990s.

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The monastery as almost all Churches in Belarus is so full of people you cannot move (it seems in Russian Orthodox Church – there is an amazing spiritual awakening at the moment). I wanted to confess and even though I was in the Church building before beginning of the holy liturgy and there were two priests to confess the queue of people to confess was so long that confession lasted until the end of the Holy Liturgy. In order to able to confess I've waited on the "confession queue" for about 2 hours and a half. Even though Holy Liturgy completed confession continued and those who confessed after the Church service end was also offered the Holy Sacraments. Another stunning thing for me was the amount of young and obviously intelligent people who was in the Church – just to compare here in Bulgaria, seeing young people in most Churches and monasteries is a rare thing ..

Saint Elisabeth's Monastery is the only monastery situated in (very near 19 km away) from MINSK on Vigotskogo 6 str. We reached the monastery by taking bus from regular Minsktrans (state's bus company) city bus nr. 26, other bus and trolley riding there are – bus 18 and trolley 33, 38, 55.
Monastery was established in 1990 after dissolvement of USSR and is situatuated on a place where previously there was no church or a monastery. The SisterHood in monastery is enormous by size and consists nowadays of 7 Churches!!!

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The main Church of the Monastery has saint relics from all around the known Orthodox Walls, to venerate all the saint relics you will need at least 20 minutes!! The Holy Relics of the monastery are so much that they remind me very much of Monasteries I've seen on Holy Mounth Athos. The spiritual father of the monastery is father Andreya Lemoshonka.

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From ruromrs the sisterhood in monastery consists of about 120 sisters (and even maybe more), some of them are Nuns and others are the so called "Sisters of Mercy" (something like the "White Sisters" moveing in the Roman Catholic Church) – woman who deliberately decided to help the monastery often walking the streets shops and metro stations collecting charity for poor, sick and people in need. Sisters of mercy are something exception and seeing a lady dressed in white robes on the street or metro with a prayer book at hand is something rare to see in today's crazy materialistic world. Some of this kind sisters of mercy are novice nuns in the monastery and others are just worldly woman with family whom the monastery employes on a small renumeration.

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The cloister is a unique place next to the majestic Church buildings, the monastery has a coffeteria where you can have a coffee / snacks or even a dinner after service, there is a Church shops full of icon and all kind of orthodox spiritual literature,a Christian games for kids (Orthodox Lotto, kids collapsible Churches from cardboards) as well as a food store with fasting and non-fasting food and even a shop for Christian clothing "Православная Одежда". 

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Orthodox Clothes Shop near St. Elizabeth's monastery Minsk

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A Honey Store – St. Elizabeth Monastery Belarus

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Orthodox Foodstore near St. Elizabeth Monastery Misnk

In one of the Churches there is a 3 floor tiny shop first floor sell icons, books and faith related things, monastic souvenirs and on the second floor there is a herbal pharmacy  with healing herbs for almost all kind of physical and nervological disorders etc. Part of monastic life is the evening and morning service which occur everyday in the monastery. The spiritual father of a monastery Andreya Lemoshonka who is a married priest is also leading frequent lectures on faith and is often helping people coming to him for a spiritual advice, a problem or question related to faith. The Nuns are fasting each Monday, Wednesday and Friday – fasting also in Mondays even though this fasting day was only observed in ancient Church and in many Orthodox monasteries, Monday fastings (In veneration of Angels) is no longer observed – i.e. sisterhood life is very strict. Near the monastery is situated a Mental Hospital and one of the duties of nuns is to often visit the mentally sick there. The sisterhood helps orphanage homes and is bringing for Holy sacraments often a lot of sick children.

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Part of monastery service is sheltering the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts offering them encouragement and work in the small monastic farm. The monastery has also workshops where people with disability work in making gloves, icons, decorations, souvenirs embroided by hand. Near the monastery there is a wooden shop where one can order all kind of custom crafted wooden wardrobes, chairs or anything wooden you like for your home.

What I saw there make my heart joyful. It seems Minsk Monastery achieved something which is rarely seen in Orthodox world a symbiosis between Faith, charity and a monetary funding model that works
The monastery very much reminded me to an Orthodox movie Forpost and to the Godly initiate in Bulgaria by father Ioan of Novi Khan who by his efforts, Gods help and the charity of hundreds of bulgarian takes care for about 150 homeless orphans in a monastery.

 

'Forpost' (Outpost) – What the Church Can Accomplish. 

As a closure word I want say Thanks and Glory be to the Holy Trinity The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit! for blessing me to the pilgrimage journet to St. Elizabeth's monastery!

Saint George’s day in an Elder – Spiritual father Georgi (91 years old Priest) in Jeglarci’s Village Bulgaria

Friday, May 9th, 2014

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This year on 6th of May – saint George's day Church feast and army celebration in Bulgaria I had the blessing to be in a small village with 868 citizens – Jiglarci (Jeglarci).
Jeglarci is situated about 40 km from Dobrich. Father Georgi from Jiglarci is a well known priest in Dobrich region. He is spiritual father of many priests, monks and nuns here in Bulgaria. This is the 3rd time I'm visiting Jiglarci one time I was on Great and Holy Friday – the day on which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and one time I was a few months ago with some brothers and sisters from Holy Trinity Church in Dobrich. This time I had the blessing to go fr. Georgi with my wife Svetlana with Russian family from moscow Mihail and Mariana, and Denica (a sister from Church in Dobrich).

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The Church saint George in Jeglarci village

Each time I visit father Georgi I have the blessing to see and hear a living proof of God's existence. Father's Georgi from Jeglarci is famous all around Bulgaria for being one of the spiritual elders of Bulgaria. He is now 91 years old but even though his age  continues his service for God (serves Holy Liturgy every day during great Lent!), continue to preach and accept dozens of people almost daily looking for spiritual advice, spiritual help, confession, or questions on how to deal with life hardship situations.
Father Georgi is known in the world under the secular name Georgi Stoyanov Peev his life is full of miracles, interesting events and wondrous facts. In communism times of atheism and Orthodox Christian faith persecutions, father Georgi was one of the many priests who underwent tortures and persecutions for his faith in Christ. Because of his firm faith of zealous priest, the Lord endowed the fr. with great spiritual gifts. In short I will mention some facts about fr. Georgi From Jeglarci life as the father is an example of a living saint, very much like another Bulgarian Church Elder (Dijado) Dobri from Baylovo.

Father Georgi has been nurtured with Christian virtues since his childhood – his aunt (sister of his father) was a nun. By his own words, "Since a child, the joy of my life was in faith". Since his youth years his faith was strong and because of that God has helped him in numerous times. Fr. Georgi had 6 children 3 sons and 3 daughters. All of his sons choose the way of priesthood and are now priests in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. His nephew fr. Stoyan is also a priest in Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Dobrich. The father become priest while being 43 years old, by studying in seminary after feeing the call of God and need for firm believers and mass disbelieve in atheistic communist times. In seminary father Georgi studied together with his son. To be able to support himself and his family financially, he worked all kind of hard labour  (sand mining near his village). His all life was labor and prayer in all his free time during studing he learned the church services, readhing the living of saints and holy bible.

Thanks to the house whom he turned into a small chapel almost 20 people become priests later in Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In his priesthood fr. Georgi was among the minority which opposed the ungodly communistic regime, he rejected to comply with communist desires to close the Church in Jeglarci and as a responce to their closure opened as a Church his own house. He was questioned and asked for reports being increminated from local Communist authorities, threatened with death and called in police stations many times because of his refusal to stop his service in Church and preaching the Gospel.

Here is a story of fr. Georgi's youth:

"Our Lord as a Good Father, not only listens our prayers but also reads in the hearts. In 1953 my brother Atanas was a soldier. We received a letter, that soldiers will be dismissed in January next year, this was a very long time. It was st. Dimiter's feast and I wanted my brother to be home for Christmas. At night I prayed the Lord, simple and by all my heart: "Lord for you nothing is hard or impossible. I beg you – in one way or another make it possible, that my brother Atanas to come home earlier.

I had a strong faith in God. My faith in God was so strong that I was feeling like being able to fly. In 3 days later only, when I saw my brother Atanas on the front door, my legs started shaking and I sat down, started crying and in my thoughts started giving thanks to the Lord, "Lord, Lord I'm a big sinner and what you've done for me the sinner …
In a short while, my brother told me how in a human way everything ordered in a way that he was able to come home, 3 days after my prayer. When I received the letter on St. Dimiter's day I've prayed, the prayer was heard and God moved. The human mind is a spiritual substance connected with God. God orders things and we in a human way receive them. On the next day after st. Dimiter's feast the coy was gathered and the commander said, "Atanas Stoyanov Peichev, make 5 steps forward and start Marching!". Together with another man commander sent them in hospital, where a doctor had to inspect their health. The two soldiers took their luggate, foreseeing that they might be kept in hospital. The health check prooved they're healthy. There were 4 months until service completion but in hospital the doctor told them – "Come on go home. Your service is over". – Do you see how in a human way the things ordered. Disbelievers would say it was a coincidence but believers knows the Lord hears our prayers, when they're prayed by our whole being and with pure heart."

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Saint George Church in Jeglarci – Altar and Dveri

Another of his stories is connected with fasting:

"The fasting of the body is a big power. It does clean up the body and draws us near God. The fasting gives a big power. I was hindered in many ways, disbelieving authorities in the village has done me many attempts to do me evil but the Lord has saved me. Didn't allowed them nothing bad to happen to me. He grant me powers, spirit to speak the truth and to not resign from righteousness. But I leave fasting …

Fasting and Prayer are lights leading to God. I was warned 3 times by our Lord about fasting significance. When we were living in North Dobrudja, following thing happened to me: " I was 15 years old. Near our village Karamankyoij a river rich of fish was flowing. One day my bigger brother cought a lot of fish from the white one. My father and all of us was tempted, we wanted eating and it was during the Great Lent. My father said, "Okay prepare the fish and let us eat, God will forgive us?" Notice he said that in faith! apostol Paul writes, 'who eat eats for the Lord and who doesn't eat- also doesn't eat for the Lord'". We have done so as well, we were big family 7-8 children,  grandma, grandpa, my father, mother. Some eat others doesn't. I was in the group of those who ate. We ate and we went to bed. A sudden pain in stomach came … hard to explain. Nothing helps, a thought came to my mind: "Lord forgive me, I will no longer eat fish during fasting". The pain immediately disappeared I immediately got well.

But unfortunately I was weak. On the other day my brother prepared fish again and invited me.

– Genyo, come lets eat.
– I suffered yesterday – I don't want.
– Don't worry your pains was from something else not from the fish, come eat I beg you.

I was tempted and ate. We played until night time and all was well with me. In night, I fall asleep, but suddenly the pain come again, 3 times more painful. I thought I am dying, I was all sweating. My mother and grandma tried to heal me but nothing helped. Then I turned with a prayer to the Lord: "Please Lord forgive me this time also." And out of a sudden I hear a noise like from many waters coming like from heaven. Something went through me and took away the pain. There was a flash in front of my eyes. Do you see how merciful is the Lord!"

Among the many spiritual gifts of fr. Georgi is the gift of "foreseeing" (thoughts and deeds, and future). Many people who visited him later narrated the father told them things which helped them improve their spiritual life. During my first visit of the father I had the possibility to raise few questions on my spiritual life, his answers was a proove for myself that the fr. has truly the gift of sagacity.
Father Georgi had many dreams during his life and many of his dreams were prophetic about future events to come. By his own words often God spoke to him in "dreams and visions". A very notable gift he has is the gift of humility and pure Godly love. He speaks in his stories about everyone including of many who tried to do him evil with profound love and forgiveness.

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By prayers of father Georgi many miracles has happened, he openly speaks of this miracles, believing that through this the weak in faith are strengthened. The father says "Even if the whole earth is convincing me to deny what I saw and experienced with my spiritual eyes I will not forsake.

His humility is sincere, he says about himself: "I am just negligible mot and the miracle is not in human deed but in God's. God uses a lot simple people and through them creates miracle to edify "the smart", those which is of God is being remembered like it happened today.  Wondrous are God's deeds!"

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"The Spiritual deed is very hard. I have worked many kind of works, when you get tired you take a rest, and for the spirit there is no rest.
What to say, how to behave, how to determine the spiritual in you, to be vigilant for your food and for body pureness for pureness of your thoughts and your heart … And of course the Prayer! This is a hard labour. The devil is trying to hit us exactly there, because in all those is the direct relationship with God. Your thought is careless, you remember "important" things, you get tired to be concentrated … And it is most harder to collect your mind and feelings and enter the heart with pure infinite faith that the Lord is with you and he hears you and then pray from all your heart and soul … So is this all easy?! And there is no end and there is no station. But once you live like this there is delight and you can't live no longer in another way …"