Book Notes: The Song of Tears – Great Canon of Saint Andrew

The Song of TearsThe Song of Tears:
An Essay on Repentance based on
the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete
by Olivier Clément

St Valdimir’s Seminary Press, 2021

This is a wonderful commentary on the Great Canon of Saint Andrew.
It highlights the main themes that you find throughout. There are many references to the Fathers, with specific sources.
The translator has also specified here and there the ideas that we often find in Olivier Clément‘s writings.
It’s a very powerful book, perfect for Lenten reading.
The first 107 pages are the commentary, anf the rest of the book is the text of the Canon itself.

I would just like to highlight here a few pages that struck me more than others:

“To sin is to make a mistake, to miss the mark, or just to miss. But what does sin make us miss? It makes us miss the norm of being that is given to us by the Truth.” Sin can thus be understood as man’s permanent failure to live “according to Nature,” a nature in which the earthly never ceases to symbolize the heavenly.
page 29

The quotation comes from The Pillar and Ground, by Pavel Florensky (p. 133)
In Orthodox milieus, we always repeat this thing about sin, that it means missing the mark. But we don’t often reflect like Florensky and Clément here, on what we are missing.
Also “nature” sometimes has a bad reputation. Here Clément connects it to our very true nature, what we were created for – to grow in the image and likeness of God.

Eight of its [the Great Canon’s] nine odes consist, in the main, of a “metanoic” rumination on the Old Testament, with the grace of the life-giving Cross appearing not just in the topology but directly in the final troparia of each ode before coming into its own in the ninth, which is entirely devoted to it.
In this way, the Bible becomes the story of humanity, the story of the “total Adam”, of the “single Man,” as the Fathers put it, and consequently of my story. Not in the sense that I should turn the Bible into a game of pietistic allegories so as to express the various states of my soul. Rather, in the sense that I am wrested from my smug or dreary individuality and discover that I am “consubstantial” with the heart-rending experience of all men.
pages 37-38

It do opens up the vast horizon of the Great Canon, and actually of all Orthodox prayers. “Lord havemercy on me” can be totally read on this way.

Emmanuel: God with us, in us, coming to us, in order to free us and give life to us — such is the secret exaltation that runs through the great Canon.
page 51

A saint is simply a sinner who has become fully conscious of the fact, and who is thereby open to God’s grace.
page 70

Refreshing definition!

Any reflection on these quotes?

One comment

  1. […] The first week of Lent, so this coming week, we have a prayer Service every evening, from Monday-Thursday. It’s called the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, a very beautiful long poem/prayer written in the 8th century made of many verses from Scripture about repentance. It’s very long, so we cut it up in 4 sections, hence the 4 days. You can find here a good introduction to it, and the text itself for each day. I also posted here my notes on a beutiful small commentary of this canon. […]


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