The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
Words: Andrew of Crete, probably written about the end of the 7th Century (Βοηθὸς καὶ σκεπαστὴς ἐγένετό μοι εἰς σωτηρίαν). Translated from Greek to English by John M. Neale, Hymns of the Eastern Church, 1862, page 24.
It would be unpardonable not to give a portion of that which the Greeks regard as the King of Canons—the Great Canon of the Mid-Lent week.
It is a collection of Scriptural examples, turned to the purpose of penitential Confession. It is impossible to deny the beauty of many stanzas, and the ingenuity of some tropological applications.
But the immense length of the Canon, for it exceeds three hundred stanzas, and its necessary tautology, must render it wearisome, unless devotionally used under the peculiar circumstances for which it is appointed. The following is a part of the earlier portion.
John Mason Neale, 1862
Whence shall my tears begin?
What first-fruits shall I bear
Of earnest sorrow for my sin?
Or how my woes declare?
O Thou! the merciful and gracious One
Forgive the foul transgressions I have done.
With Adam I have vied,
Yea, passed him, in my fall;
And I am naked now, by pride
And lust made bare of all;
Of Thee, O God, and that celestial band,
And all the glory of the promised land.
No earthly Eve beguiled
My body into sin:
A spiritual temptress smiled,
Unbridled passion grasped the unhallowed sweet:
Most bitter—ever bitter—was the meat.
If Adam’s righteous doom,
Because he dared transgress
Thy one decree, lost Eden’s bloom
And Eden’s loveliness:
What recompense, O Lord, must I expect,
Who all my life Thy quickening laws neglect?
By mine own act, like Cain,
A murderer was I made:
By mine own act my soul was slain,
When Thou wast disobeyed:
And lusts each day are quickened, warring still
Against Thy grace with many a deed of ill.
Thou formed’st me of clay,
O heav’nly Potter! Thou
In fleshly vesture didst array,
With life and breath endow.
Thou who didst make, didst ransom, and dost know
To Thy repentant creature pity show!
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.
I lie before Thy door,
O turn me not away!
Nor in mine old age give me o’er
To Satan for a prey!
But ere the end of life and term of grace,
Thou merciful! my many sins efface!
The priest beheld, and passed
The way he had to go:
A careless glance the Levite cast,
And left me to my woe:
But Thou, O Jesu, Mary’s Son, console,
Draw nigh, and succor me, and make me whole!
Thou spotless Lamb divine,
Who takest sins away,
Remove, remove, the load that mine
Upon my conscience lay:
And, of Thy tender mercy, grant Thou me
To find remission of iniquity.