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  • Writer's pictureSilouan & All Saints GBI

Canon of Repentance to the Theotokos

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

This is a poem by Saint Theodore the Studite (+826), which constitutes a canon of nine odes. In the first verse of each ode, the sinner entreats the Theotokos. In the second, the Theotokos entreats Christ. In the third, Christ responds to the Theotokos. In the fourth, the Theotokos responds to the sinner. Through the course of the poem, we, as the "sinner," draw steadily closer to Christ and sincere repentance through the intercessions of the Mother of God. It is written during a high point of Marian devotion during the late 8th and early 9th centuries. During this time, the heresy of iconoclasm (lit: icon-smashers) was defeated and so devotion to the Mother of God flourished as a reaction to the previous criticism of honouring her, which was linked with the attempts to suppress the use of icons.


The poem/prayer has been arranged into a short service that can be read at home, and which can be downloaded below. It can, of course, also be read as a poem.



Canon of Repentance to the Theotokos (bo
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CANON OF REPENTANCE TO THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS

A Poem by Saint Theodore the Studite.



Song 1.

(The sinner to the Theotokos) O Container of the Uncontainable, entreat Christ to deliver me from the dreaded fire devoid of light, and show me forth as a sharer of His kingdom.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) Receive my entreaty, O Son and Word, and deliver from punishment Thy servant, who is crying out to me from the depth of his soul, and make him worthy of Thy kingdom.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) Thou, O Mother, dost know I am a fount of mercies for even at this very moment I show forth mercy to sinners who transgress my commandments. Yet this man severely provokes me by his shameful and evil deeds.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the sinner) By many disgraceful and shameful misdeeds thou hast provoked my Son. Being thus greatly vexed by thee, His compassion hast been turned to wrath.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.



Song 3.

(The sinner to the Theotokos) Truly I have squandered my whole life in evil deeds, and therefore I cry out to thee: O pure Virgin, entreat thy Son to call me back from sin and save me, just as He called back and saved the prodigal.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) O Lord of all, ineffably born from my womb, take pity on Thy servant as on the prodigal long ago, and place Him, O All-Good One, at Thy right hand on the Day of Judgment.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) Hear me, Mother, as I discerningly respond to thee: the one who long ago spent his life in prodigality, didst return in ardent repentance crying, “I have sinned.” Yet this man, even though now he cries out to thee like this, will in time prove to be a liar.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the sinner) Having told my Son the things thou hast said, entreating Him to make thee worthy of His kingdom, He hast opposed me saying: “He has not drawn near to me with ardent faith, and therefore I shall send him out from before my face.”

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.


Song 4.

(The sinner to the Theotokos) Understanding thy strength, O Virgin, I cry out to thee in my hour of need, even though my repentance is not ardent. Yet by thy supplications to the Master, grant me the complete amendment of my life.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) O Master, who by nature is God the lover of mankind, hearken to Thy Mother who with fervour cries to Thee, and deliver Thy servant from condemnation. And where he possesseth not perfect faith, I beg Thee, as God, grant it to him.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) O Mother, I hast bestowed upon him every way to be saved and yet he ceasesth not from sin and now drawest near to death. Wherefore no man can be saved except he passeth through fire.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the sinner) According to my Son, now I perceive thee to be the cause of thine own perdition, as thou hast surrendered thyself utterly to sin, and hast given thyself over to slothfulness. Who can now raise thee from the place to which thou hast fallen?

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.



Song 5.

(The sinner to the Theotokos) O Virgin, I long to walk ever on the path of repentance that dost lead to eternal life, but at once the grim ranks of demons drag me down and dost seek to cast me headlong into the abyss of sin, and further into the harrowing pit of perdition.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) O Saviour, Thou didst first put death to death, and didst free Adam from his bonds. Wherefore, I implore thee, my Son: pluck this man from the hands of the demons who afflict him, as they hast denied him repentance.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) O All-Praised Mother, I too cry aloud to thee: Through prayer and fasting the multitude of wicked demons will be driven out of him. And yet he hast not through abstinence, prayer, and chastity made clean his body; whereby, alas, it hast become a cave of devils.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the sinner) Take heed of the word of my Son and comprehend in what way thou must act. The disciples, without strength to drive out evil spirits, didst hear from the Master: “This kind of devil goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.



Song 6.

(The sinner to the Theotokos) I am not rich with words, and am a pauper in virtues. I love neither to pray nor undertake fasts, O Bride of God. Wherefore I seek refuge in thee.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) Attend unto me, my compassionate Son, for it is Thy Mother who dost implore thee. The man fleeing unto me is devoid of good works and crieth thus: “I have no other hope but thee, O Lady.”

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) O Mother, who dost plead with ardent love, cease to speak on behalf of this man! For though he dost declare my compassion he seeth not my wrath, and so dost continue to defile himself.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the sinner) On thy behalf I didst entreat my Son and God that thou may obtain mercy. And yet he didst cry out to me in turn to cease my intercession for thee to be saved.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.



Song 7.

(The sinner to the Theotokos) All my hope I place in thee, O Lady, cast not me, the wretched one, into the pit of perdition. But return to thy Son and cry out to Him: “Destroy not the work of Thy hands.”

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) O Master, since thou art a sea of mercy without measure, I yet again implore thee to receive me, for thou alone art quick to reconcile. Wherefore take pity on the work of Thy hands, O Thou who of old didst take pity on the Canaanite woman.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) I shewest mercy and dost save all who come to Me filled with longing, and in no-wise desire any of my creations be brought to destruction. In truth I wast born of thee in order to save all. But this man dost stray far from my works.

Glory to the Father, and to the Sore, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the sinner) My Son, Who dost eternally pre-exist as the Wisdom of the Most High God, in time didst become perfect man through me, to save those who with ardent faith preserve their divine baptism. But in this thou hast failed utterly.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.



Song 8.

(The Sinner to the Theotokos) Taking courage I approach thee, O Virgin, for I hast beheld thy Son saving the harlot and the thief. They had done no good works under the law, and didst perform no good deeds in life, yet they both didst obtain forgiveness.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) Look down from the heights and hearken to Thy Mother, for I entreat Thee to deliver Thy servant from the fire, just as Thou didst deliver the harlot, and on Thy Cross redeemed the thief.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) The thief who long ago hung upon the Cross didst cry in faith: “Remember me.” And, again, the harlot didst pour forth streams of tears. Yet this man is not like them.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the Sinner) Christ saved the weeping harlot, likewise the thief on the Cross, who didst show faith in Him. If thou desirest to attain the Bread of Life, then hasten to the Lord with tears and faith.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.



Song 9.

(The Sinner to the Theotokos) O Maiden, I hast shown myself a greater sinner than all other men, wherefore I shamefacedly approach thy Son. And yet I pray thee to implore Him to shew pity upon me, and do not despise my drawing near to Him with ardent faith and longing.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(The Theotokos to Christ) O Word, deliver Thy servant, who draws nigh to Thee, from punishment, I implore Thee: Remember not his transgressions. For though he sinned, O Saviour, he didst turn to me for refuge and I entreatest Thee. Through me receive this man, for Thou dost fulfill the petitions of all.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

(Christ to the Theotokos) O Mother, he is not worthy to take refuge in thy mercy, for no man didst provoke my wrath as much as he. Yet by thy precious prayers, I will not punish him on the Day of Judgment should he bring me fruits of repentance.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

(The Theotokos to the Sinner) Though thou didst languish in the depth of Hades, through my prayer and intercessions thou hast been raised up to the heights of my Son. See that thou dost not fall back into thy former grievous sins. Depart, and stay on the path of repentance, lest thou be cast into Gehenna.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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