All the demon chiefs
of the passions have plowed on my back, and long has their tyranny over me
(Great Canon, Ode 2, Troparion 12, Clean Monday)
We read this troparion Monday evening in Clean week, the first of four days in which we serve Great Compline and serialize the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. In the fifth week, we will sing the entire canon.
This is one of many poetic and powerfully brutal representations of sin which St Andrew uses, and it has always particularly moved me.
I suppose it is because we are not able to easily protect our back, and it is on our “blind side”. How many sins do I commit and not see them? How easily the demons punch through my weak defenses – often without me even knowing they are there!
I also always think of the “good ground” from the parable of the Sower when I hear this troparion. We should be “good ground” and yet we grow so many tares from our passions in this ground, which is our soul. St. Andrew likens his soul here to “ground” on his back, over which the demons sow their tyranny over us.
Can you feel how tired he is here? We should be this tired!
“LONG HAS THEIR TYRANNY OVER ME LASTED!”.
This is the plaintive cry of a man who has had enough. He, like the Apostle Paul, is saying
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:12, read on the Sunday of Forgiveness, 1 day before this troparion, from the Great Canon of St Andrew, is sung on Clean Monday)
Oh! if only our soul felt the full weight of our sins, and was truly tired and disgusted with our condition! We would change immediately, if only we could join our weak voice to St Andrew's with complete sincerity and resolve.
Priest Seraphim Holland St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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