05 March 2008

The Great Canon

Eastern Catholics will be singing the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete Thursday at Matins. Unfortunately, none of my local Byzantine/Ukranian Catholic parishes will be doing it. This song of repentance was one of the highlights of Lent for me when I was Eastern Orthodox. The "King of Canons" uses Scriptural images to create a penitential confession over three-hundred stanzas long.

In my typical West-meets-East fashion, here's John Mason Neale's adaptation of the Canon into English hymn form:

Whence shall my tears begin ? What first-fruits shall I bear Of earnest sorrow for my sin ? Or how my woes declare ? О Thou ! the Merciful and Gracious One ! Forgive the foul transgressions I have done. With Adam I have vied, Yea, pass'd him, in my fall ; And I am naked now, by pride And lust made bare of all ; Of Tiiee, О GOD, and that Celestial Band, And all the glory of the Promis'd Land. No earthly Eve beguil'd My body into sin : A spiritual temptress smil'd, Concupiscence within : Unbridled passion grasp'd th' unhallow'd sweet : Most bitter—ever bitter—was the meat. If Adam's righteous doom, Because he dar'd transgress Thy one decree, lost Eden's bloom And Eden's loveliness : What recompense, О LORD, must I expect, Who all my life Thy quick'ning laws neglect ? My guilt for vengeance cries; But yet Thou pardonest all, And whom Thou lov’st Thou dost chastise, And mourn’st for them that fall: Thou, as a Father, mark’st our tears and pain, And welcomest the prodigal again.

Listen to the Byzantine Catholic Recording in mp3 here:
Ode 1 - Ode 2 - Ode 3
Ode 4 - Ode 5 - Ode 6
Ode 7 - Ode 8 - Ode 9

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