The First Vigil

The Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete

The Great Canon of St Andrew, Bishop of Crete, also known in the Serbian Tradition as the First Vigil. This is the longest canon in all of our services, and is associated with Great Lent, since the only times it is appointed to be read in church are the first four nights of Great Lent (Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, at Great Compline, when it is serialized) and at Matins for Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent, when it is read in its entirety (in this latter service, the entire life of St Mary of Egypt is also read).

Venerable John Climacus of Sinai, Author of “the Ladder”

Saint John of the Ladder is honored by Holy Church as a great ascetic and author of the renowned spiritual book called THE LADDER, from which he is also called “of the Ladder” (Climacus).

There is almost no information about Saint John’s origins. One tradition suggests that he was born in Constantinople around the year 570, and was the son of Saints Xenophon and Maria (January 26).

John went to Sinai when he was sixteen, submitting to Abba Martyrius as his instructor and guide. After four years, Saint John was tonsured as a monk. Abba Strategios, who was present at Saint John’s tonsure, predicted that he would become a great luminary in the Church of Christ.

Instructions For The Laity From St. John Climacus

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (9:17-31)

 Today’s reading is given to us on this, the fourth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent. This day we commemorate the memory of our father among the saint John Climacus. He is most well known for the spiritual classic which he wrote called “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”. In this powerful book, he outlines steps of the spiritual life as rungs of a ladder that lead up to heaven. As we climb and gain new virtues through God’s help, we ascend further towards the Kingdom. This book is so highly regarded that it is often the main lenten reading in monasteries around the world. This of course makes great sense when you realize that this book was written for monastics and from a monastic mindset. Nevertheless, it has many wonderful treasures for the average layperson who eagerly studies it with some guidance from their priest and spiritual father.

Homily on the Annunciation of the Mother of God

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb,and bring forth a son,
and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great,
and shall be called the Son of the Highest.

Lk. 1:31–32

The Annunciation. Fresco in High Decani Monastery (Kosovo, Serbia) 14th century

St. John Cassian’s Institutes: On Despondency

Chapter 1.

How our fifth combat is against the spirit of despondency, and of the harm which it inflicts upon the soul.

In our fifth combat we have to resist the pangs of gnawing despondency: For if this, through separate attacks made at random, and by haphazard and casual changes, has secured an opportunity of gaining possession of our mind it keeps us back at all times from all insight in divine contemplation, and utterly ruins and depresses the mind that has fallen away from its complete state of purity. It does not allow it to say its prayers with its usual gladness of heart, nor permit it to rely on the comfort of reading the sacred writings, nor suffer it to be quiet and gentle with the brethren; it makes it impatient and rough in all the duties of work and devotion: and, as all wholesome counsel is lost, and steadfastness of heart destroyed, it makes the feelings almost mad and drunk, and crushes and overwhelms them with penal despair.