The Canons of Supplication

1 August 2023

A supplicatory canon (paraklisi) is a poem of the Orthodox Church. These poems are extensions of Vespers services or they can stand alone. The supplicatory canons are sung by Christians in churches or at home, at various times of need and sorrow, for the healing of souls and bodies.

A supplicatory canon is an intercession and is addressed to Christ, the Mother of God, Saint John the Baptist or one of the many saints.

The oldest extant supplicatory canons are the small (a poem by the monk Theostiriktos or by Theofanis the Confessor, dating to the 9th century); and the great (a poem by Emperor Theodoros Doukas Laskaris, 13th century). They both have the same numbers of verses, 32, with 4 to each ode or canticle, but the verses, and the model (irmos) according to which they’re sung, are clearly longer in the great canon.

We honor and hymn  the Mother of God, we ask her to govern our lives and, as the ‘invincible bulwark and protection’ and ‘most secure fortress’ that she is, to preserve us from the ‘arrows shot by the demons’ which surround us and which we’re unable to deal with on our own. In this way, we Christians truly experience the ‘summer Easter’, in August.