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Raging as a maddened heifer
Twenty-five year into Orthodoxy I can still not quite reconcile myself to the Canon of St Andrew of Crete. ‘No sin has there been in life, no evil deed, no wickedness, that I have not committed, O Saviour, I have sinned as no one ever before, in mind, word, and intent, in disposition, thought and act.’ Perhaps such chest-thumping works in the upper reaches of spirituality, but if so, I’m not there yet. Nor do I relate to ‘Raging as a maddened heifer, O my soul, thou art become like Ephraim’. It does not quite ring true, and I still ask whether it was not written to order

By contrast the Matins canticles of today are much more sober. They speak to me: ‘Come, let us enter the inner chamber of our soul, offering prayers to the Lord and crying aloud: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, remit and forgive our sins, for thou alone art compassionate. / Showing joyfulness of soul in the Fast, let us not be of a sad countenance; for the change in our way of life during these blessed days will help us to gain holiness.’ Here and elsewhere the struggle of the fast is put in its proper context of the promise of glory: ‘Let us enter into the darkness of holy visions; by the divine and mystical ascent, let us become godlike, and let us look only upon Christ our beloved in His beauty’.

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Clearly you are much better blessed than we are. For musically talented priest read 'archbishop', reading from the half Slavonic, half Russian version of Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov, in a "samizdat' production, third or fourth typewritten copy.... To be fair he reads it with the intention of its being understood.

The thing is, our late настотель, a renown in Petersburg starets, expressedly forebode the use of any books/translations during the service ("Why, you are checking if I'm reading it properly?") - I can only guess for what reasons. But he was reading the Slavonic with all the expression and devotion and familiarity coming from 50 years of being a priest. As for the choir, they were (and still are, I believe, though I don't belong to the parish any more) exceptional professionals (e. g. a tenor singing in Hermitage theatre) plus real Christians (and usually in a Church you have either of these). So the situation was rather unique.

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