The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

(The Poklony Service)

Each year the Canon of St. Andrew is read during the first week in Lent as well as on Wednesday evening of the fifth week of the Great Fast.  It is hoped that we will finish our fast with as much conviction as we began, so the Church prescribes this service of prostrations at this time to help us fast and do penance.  We also know this service as the Poklony (Prostrations) Service since in its entirety there are 250 profound bows to the ground.  The service symbolizes the spirit of penance during Lent in our Eastern Church.

In this hymn, all the events in Scripture involving humankind are made personal.  The scenes of the Bible pass in front of us and we relive them deeply.  The story of creation, the fall and redemption become the story of my creation, my fall and my redemption.  The Canon brings us into Scripture and uses powerful imagery to help us realize the depth of our sin.  We realize how far we are from Christ and we are moved to repentance.  During the canon, we sing Tropars that honour St. Mary of Egypt and St. Andrew of Crete.  St. Mary of Egypt led a very sinful life before repenting on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Afterwards, she went into the desert where she spent the rest of her life in prayer and sorrow for her sins.  She is an example to us and inspires us to conversion, sorrow and atonement for sin.  St. Andrew of Crete was the archbishop of a city on the island of Crete.  He was a gifted preacher, writer and poet who composed many church hymns and canons, including the Great Canon.