The Who’s Who of the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete (Protodeacon James Hughes)

Today, Saint Andrew of Crete is primarily known as a hymnographer. He is credited with the invention (or at least the introduction into Orthodox liturgical services) of the canon, a new form of hymnody. Previously, the portion of the Matins serrains inserted between the scripture verses. Saint Andrew expanded these refrains into fully developed poetic Odes, each of which begins with the theme (Irmos) of the scriptural canticle, but then goes on to expound the theme of the feast being celebrated that day (whether the Lord, theTheotokos a saint, the departed, etc.).

Jordanville

His masterpiece, the Great Canon (also known as the Canon of Repentance or the Great Canon of Repentance), is the longest canon ever composed (250 strophes). It is written primarily in the first person, and goes chronologically through the entire Old and New Testaments drawing examples (both negative and positive) which it correlates to the need of the sinful soul for repentance and a humble return to God. It is divided into four parts (called methymony) which are chanted at Great Compline on the first four nights of Great Lent (one part per night); later, it is chanted in its entirety at Matins on Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent.

Twenty-four canons are reputed to have been written by Saint Andrew of Crete. Of these, we can be more or less certain that he wrote fourteen, including: the canons for the Resurrection of Lazarus (chanted at Compline on the Saturday—i.e., Friday night—before Palm Sunday); the Conception of St. Anne (9 December); the Maccabean Martyrs (1 August); St. Ignatius of Antioch (20 December), as well as four Triodia, and no fewer than one hundred and seven irmoi.

Byzantine Insights into Genesis 1-3 – St Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon:

Reading the Scriptures with Byzantine Eyes – The Hermeneutical Significance of St Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon:

 

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