top of page

Choral Corner #18: Why do we sing the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete twice during Great Lent?

The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete (sometimes called the Great Canon of Repentance or simply the Great Canon) is a 7th-century work that is simultaneously a survey of biblical salvation history, and extended plea for divine mercy, and a fervent self-exhortation to repentance while there is still time to do so. We first pray the Canon at Grand Compline during the first four days of Lent; it is divided into four sections to ease us somewhat gently into our Lenten pilgrimage. This is merciful, as confronting the entire truth of our spiritual situation at the very beginning of the Fast could be overwhelming and lead us to despair of salvation. Then, on the fifth Thursday of Lent, we pray the Great Canon in its entirety, having (hopefully) seized the opportunities over the preceding weeks to acknowledge our sinfulness more honestly and undertake greater efforts in repentance and amendment of life. If we have used this time wisely, we are now more ready to attend to the reality presented, uninterrupted, in the Great Canon, and to understand how our personal history is knit together with the biblical figures and events described therein. In the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann (+1983), "The events of the sacred history are revealed as events in 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." (Schmemann, Great Lent, p. 71). Of course, it is not merely about me in some sort of isolated, self-centered spiritual vacuum, but rather about each soul as a member of the Body of Christ, described in the accounts of the holy and the wicked in the body of Holy Scripture.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page