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First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey Through the Canon of St. Andrew

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One of today's most popular spiritual writers and commentators interweaves the Old and New Testament Scripture with prayers of hope and repentance, offering ancient ways of seeing Christ that will feel new to readers of all denominational backgrounds.

195 pages, Hardcover

First published December 30, 2005

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Frederica Mathewes-Green

28 books109 followers

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5 stars
70 (46%)
4 stars
45 (29%)
3 stars
28 (18%)
2 stars
8 (5%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Mimi.
1,508 reviews
April 15, 2022
I think this book gets better and better each time I read it. Perhaps it is because this year our Church School has been teaching on the Old Testament, but I felt that the words of St. Andrew's Canon really were reaching me.
I also appreciate Kh. Frederica's comments and reflections, more so each year.
An excellent Lenten read, and a big thank you to my dear Goddaughter who gave me this in 2006, I've been greatly edified.
Profile Image for Mimi.
1,508 reviews
April 10, 2020
I read this every year during Lent (a section a day, more or less) and every year I thank my Goddaughter for giving it to me. It's a delightful meditation on St. Andrew of Crete's Lenten Canon, it helps to delve into the season, and into yourself.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
159 reviews
March 31, 2023
2022 update: my 10th year of reading. A yearly tradition.

I love it more each year, reading through Lent. Perfect for daily tastes of the ancient hymn that is still used by Orthodox Christians during Lent today. I learn something new every time.
Profile Image for Debbi.
508 reviews15 followers
September 1, 2008
Not my favorite Khouria Frederica book. I think it might have worked best if it hadn't been a 40 day Lenten devotional. I do love the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete and appreciated some of her reflections.
Profile Image for Elise.
1,344 reviews
March 14, 2018
Wow! An amazing study of the Cannon of St Andrew. The perfect Lenten devotion if you want to focus your heart on repentance and humility during Lent (or anything). Highly recommended. Even if you aren’t Rastern Orthodox, you will find much in this book to aid your spiritual journey.
Profile Image for Alex of Yoe.
316 reviews3 followers
April 7, 2023
As per request: this was my devotional reading for Lent this year, and I really appreciated it. Written by one of my favourite Orthodox authors, I thought it was well-done, and it helped bring me through this period of self-reflection and repentance.

This is a forty-day journey through the Canon of St. Andrew which is sung in the Orthodox Church every year during Lent. It is an immense and thorough piece focusing on repentance and the life of St. Mary of Egypt. This book divides the Canon into daily readings and offers commentary and a reflection piece for each segment. It also includes an introduction to Orthodox thought and the historical background of the Canon, as well as an abridged Life of St. Mary of Egypt at the end.

I did truly enjoy taking a slow, reflective look at the Canon of St. Andrew. It is definitely the best piece for Lent, but singing it all in one service can sometimes feel like drinking from a firehose, so I appreciated how this was laid out to be able to take it in over the course of the Lenten period. I liked that the author provides her own commentary and Scripture references to help readers who may be unfamiliar with the piece, and I especially loved the meditative reflection questions she included for each day. They were both convicting and encouraging, a perfect blend to help the reader through this heavy Canon. I feel like it helped me focus my thoughts during Lent and take the season and myself seriously. It also gave me a new appreciation for the Canon, which I already loved, so now I just love it (and understand it) even more.

My one complaint is that the layout can be rather messy. The footnote numbering doesn't always match and the way the pages are aligned can get weird and confusing. It needs redone and refreshed, from a design point of view. I think revamping it into a Lenten journal would be perfect since many of the reflection pieces could easily become journal prompts. It might read too simple or slow for some, but I personally think that's the purpose of Lent: get back to the basics and slow yourself down. But other readers may disagree and not find it as helpful.

Overall, I thought this was a great Lenten devotional. Very accessible to the average reader and in perfect chunks to be read easily amidst a busy schedule. While it is primarily an Orthodox book, it's written to be understood by any Christian regardless of their faith tradition. It's a slow and deep read, more for meditation than for knowledge, so if that's not your thing, you may not appreciate it. But, if you're looking for something new for Lent or any 40 day period of seeking God and doing honest soul-searching, I'd definitely recommend this one.
Profile Image for Louise.
108 reviews5 followers
May 20, 2020
This is a book that I hesitate to give a rating to. In some ways, I did enjoy it very much, and in other ways, I struggled. I've participated in the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete several times before reading this book, and it's definitely a unique and quintessentially Lenten experience. The repetitiveness of it, along with the darkness and the sorrowful quality to the music are quite moving, so I looked forward to moving even deeper into that experience. But in practice, I found it jarring to do it as a retreat that you read over 40 days. Reading through the verses doesn't have the same flow as singing them (and I found myself trying to remember the melodies, or wondering to myself whether we actually had certain verses that I couldn't remember singing - which took focus away from the actual words of the text), and this was then interrupted by reading the accompanying explanations on the left side, though they were quite interesting in their own right. Then that whole thing was interrupted by being split over 40 chapters.

So this was a book I loved in theory - a beautiful, soulful Lenten practice converted into a self-guided retreat with explanations to help you go deeper; but in practice I found that I personally had a very hard time getting into it, feeling a bit like a ping-pong ball going between verses, explanations, and memories of the actual experience. That said, I do recommend people pick this up and give it a try - and I will probably try again - but I would also recommend participating in the actual Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete next Lent.
Profile Image for Paul Dubuc.
250 reviews9 followers
April 8, 2020
Praying through the Canon of St. Andrew has been a blessed experience for me during Lent. This tradition of Eastern Orthodox Christianity was new to me. Frederica Matthews-Green's notes and considerations for each day are an essential guide. Lent is a season of lament for suffering and for sin. This year we live through a climate of worldwide suffering during Lent. Especially in a time like this the confessions of the Canon may seem overdone to many in our Western culture but, for me, they were an encouragement to probe more deeply into the ways that I have fallen short of God's careful desires for me and in the ways I often care for other people. I think that, without times of some bitter reflection on our own sinfulness, we cheat ourselves out of a deeper understanding of God's love for us. We have so few occasions to exercise genuine humility because we are so prone to avoid the opportunities for it. In the end though, as Matthews-Green says:

"... And as humility increases, so does joy, because you can let go of false fronts, and know yourself loved exactly the way you are. God will not leave you the way you are; His will is to make you like He is. 'You, therefore, must be perfect has your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). This is a lifelong journey, but not one you have to make alone. ..."
3 reviews
July 14, 2020
This became my morning prayer for several months. I am Anglican, not Orthodox but I found it comforting to begin my day with a reading and prayer for the Canon of St. Andrew. I have much to be thankful for and have to start giving that thanks.
Profile Image for Charles.
339 reviews10 followers
April 28, 2011
A great lentin devotional. It goes through the complete Canon of St Andrew of Crete. Which hats off to Khouria Mathewes-Green, her book is the easiest place to find the complete text in English. The Great Canon is preformed in Compline on the first three days of Great lent and on the again toward the end of Great Lent. The canon is a spiritual adventure, it summarizes the Holy Scripture and presents of with the life of Mary of Egypt. Khouria Mathewes-Green divides her devotional into 40 days, just like great lent, with the Great Canon page and commentary on it on the opposite page. This book makes accessible one of the many treasures of the Orthodox lentin tradition, Highly recommended
729 reviews43 followers
May 14, 2011
Fredrica did a fair amount of work in finding the scriptural passages referred to in the Canon of Repentance of St. Andrew sung during Great Lent. She acknowledges the reliance of St. Andrew on the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. What she doesn't quite get past is a rather literal reading of the Scriptures. St. Andrew uses all manners of typology and allegory and a spiritual reading of the texts, but she hardly acknowledges that his "creative" reading of Scripture (read, in depth reading) is what makes the canon so Orthodox. She seems to have completely missed for example the Patristic understanding of Adam's nakedness and the garments of skins.
Profile Image for Jen.
2,396 reviews41 followers
August 17, 2011
This book was hardish to get through, I started it in March, and now it's August even though it's separated into 40 very doable chapters. I guess I wanted to do it well. Some of the side notes that Frederica adds are obvious, then others are super helpful. I feel like it's a book I should read again so that it can change me more.
Profile Image for Melinda.
748 reviews53 followers
April 14, 2013
Read this over the 40 days of Lent and found it very worthwhile. Many things to think about from a different Orthodox Christian perspective, and the author provides explanations and scripture proofs for the various elements of the Prayer of St. Andrew.

Profile Image for Elissa.
Author 6 books49 followers
January 28, 2014
How wonderful to have the Canon of St. Andrew divided into 40 readings and accompanied by Frederica's helpful notes. This is a recurring favorite daily meditation for 40 day fasts, and a true blessing.
1 review
Currently reading
April 30, 2008
Excellent book for Lenten Reading- the Orthodox canons of repentence
639 reviews
May 13, 2011
We gave this book to families in our home group to use as a Lenten study. WE got so much out of it when we read it several years ago.
Profile Image for Else.
63 reviews
September 3, 2017
I read this every year as part of my Lenten observance. The Canon is a marvelous read for this time, and Frederica's commentary and thoughts helps one delve into the text more. Recommended.
28 reviews1 follower
January 7, 2016
Okay, so I didn't actually finish it, but it's a devotional and I read enough to know that I do like it, but may reserve it for Lenten reading.
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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