History of the Small Paraklesis (Supplication) Canon to the Theotokos

Dormition of the Theotokos

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our only God and Our only Savior,

(St. Gennadios Scholarios, Patriarch of Constantinople)

O Blessed Virgin, You are full of grace and among women the Most Blessed of any person; You are the adornment of the human race, the miracle of Angels, the joy of all creation, the crown of virtue, the Most true image and likeness of God, the Most well-disposed Queen, and we laud and praise your holiness. After all the glory we render to the Eternal Logos (Word) of God, our Creator and Savior, we directly confess and witness to your graces, O Theotokos, for You co-operated with and participated in the plan of our salvation. We beseech you, Most Holy Mother of God, accept also now our petition and send it for a favorable consideration to our Savior, and your Son, Jesus Christ, and through Him to the Unoriginate God and Father and the Holy Spirit. For you have served God in the very best of all the Divine acts and in the greatest heavenly plan for the salvation of us humans. If God listens to sinners when they return in repentance to His obedience and love-O what supernatural wonder!-how will He reject your intercession on our behalf? We admit that we are sinful and unworthy of any heavenly or earthly visitation; and yet we dare to be bold because we know the depth of your own loving kindness and compassion that resembles that of God Himself. We also confess and witness to your own abiding favor and providence toward our nation, which has been demonstrated from the beginning until now.

For these reasons therefore do not overlook us, the least of your servants, but intercede on our behalf; show your guardianship over us. Our life is passing away and the guilt for our sins is great and heavy. Our repentance is lukewarm and uncertain. We turn to God our Creator in repentance and immediately we return again to evil.

For this reason then, Most compassionate Mother of our Merciful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, be quick to deliver us from these present fears of ours. Grant us a repentance that is as true and stead fast as possible; make us all to be diligent in the work of our salvation; supplement with your divine love for mankind what is lacking in us because of our natural weakness and long-standing companionship with evil. Dissolve the guilt of our many great sins, by generating a profound contrition in our souls and by offering it as a start to the divine love for mankind, through which so many repentant thieves, prostitutes and publicans have been saved...O Most Holy Theotokos, full of grace and Most Blessed among women, the Lord is indeed with you, and may He be also with us through you, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


On July 29th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyr Callinicus of Cilicia; Holy Virginmartyr Theodota; four Holy Martyrs, a father and mother with their two children, were perfected in martyrdom by fire; Holy Martyrs Mamas and Vasiliscus in the district of Darius; St. Serapia of Antioch; Holy Martyrs Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice their sister; father among the Saints Lupus, Bishop of Troyes in Gaul; Holy Martyr Efstratius the Cobbler of Mtskheta in Georgia; our RighteousFfathers Constantine and Cosmas of Kosino, near Pskov.

+By the holy intercessions of Thy Saints and holy Martyrs, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 16:17-24
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 13:10-23, 43


"By fasting it is possible both to be delivered from future evils and to enjoy the good things to come. We fell into disease through sin; let us receive healing through repentance, which is not fruitful without fasting." [Saint Basil the Great]

by John Sanidopoulos

There are two forms of the Paraklesis Canon to the Theotokos: the Small Paraklesis which was composed by Theosteriktos the Monk in the 9th century (or some say Theophanes), and the Great Paraklesis. During the majority of the year, only the Small Paraklesis to the Theotokos is chanted. However, during the Dormition (Koimisis) Fast (August 1-14), the Typikon prescribes that the Small and Great Paraklesis be chanted on alternate evenings, according to the following regulations:

-If August 1st falls on a Monday through Friday, the cycle begins with the Small Paraklesis. If August 1st falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the cycle begins with the Great Paraklesis.

-On the eves of Sundays (i.e. Saturday nights) and on the eve of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ (the night of August 5th) the Paraklesis is omitted. Great Vespers are conducted on Saturday and on the eve of the feast of the Holy Transfiguration instead.

In the Russian Orthodox Church, the equivalent of a Paraklesis is the Moleben, which is similar in structure, except that the Canon is omitted, retaining only the refrains and Irmoi of the third, sixth and ninth odes. When the full service itself is conducted, it is called the "Supplicatory Canon" (Molebnyj Kanon).

According to liturgical Professor Fountoulis, even though the two Canons to the Theotokos are differentiated with the title "Small" and "Great", in fact they have the same number of Troparia (hymns), both having thirty-two with four in each Ode. However the Great Canon is more extensive, though this does not justify the epithet. The real reason seems to be that the Great Canon is chanted in a more festive tone during the Dormition (Koimisis) Fast than the Small Canon, as shown in the Dismissal Hymns which begin: "O you Apostles, lay my body in burial; and You my Son and my God, receive my spirit."

Little research has been done on the historical circumstances that led to the poetry of the two Canons and the final morphology of the two Supplications.

Regarding the Great Supplicatory Service, we have sufficient testimony to its authorship. The poet was Theodore II Doukas Laskaris, Emperor of Nicaea. He was an Emperor in exile who reigned from 1254 to 1258 AD following the Fall of Constantinople to the Frankish Crusaders in 1204 (the Last Crusade) which led to the destruction of Constantinople by the Latins.

The Authorship and Origins of the Small Paraklesis Canon

The Small Supplication Service is older than the Great Supplication Service and its authorship is attributed by some to Theosteriktos the Monk, who lived in the 9th century. Others speculate it to be the work of Metropolitan Theophanes the Confessor of Nicaea who lived in the same century. Some even put forward Saint John the Damascene as the composer.

In the liturgical book Horologion it simply states as the author: "A poem of Thesoteriktos the Monk. Others support Thephanes." Some say that these two names actually belonged to the same person; Theophanes was the name of Theosteriktos before he became a monk.

Saint Theosteriktos the Confessor and His Struggle for the Holy Icons

St.Theosteriktos the Confessor, Abbot (Egoumenos) of Pelekete Monastery near Prusa, suffered for the Holy Icons under the impious emperor Constantine V Copronymons (741-775). His feast day is February 29th in the Slavic Churches and March 17th in the Greek Churches.

Saint Theosteriktos was born in Triglia of Bithynia and became a monk at a young age at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, known also as Pelekete Monastery, where he later became Egoumenos. During the persecution of emperor Constantine V Copronymos, his general in Asia Minor Michael Lechanodrakon began a fierce persecution especially against the monastics who venerated the Holy Icons.

On the night of Holy and Great Thursday in 3763 A.D. the general came to Pelekete Monastery during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Abbot (Egoumenos) Theosteriktos was celebrating the Divine Liturgy together with 780 monks under him, 70 of which were hieromonks (priest-monks). Suddenly loud knocks at the Gate of the Monastery interrupted the solemn atmosphere, and 2,000 soldiers of the General were outside yelling, causing chills and tremors.

The soldiers broke the Gate with axes and the mob entered the courtyard. General Michael Lachanodrakon rushed into the church with his army and approached the Egoumeno (Abbot). Violently the General took the Holy Chalice and smashed it on the ground, and punched the Abbot in the face. This resulted in a fight between the monks and the soldiers.

Seeing this, the Abbot commanded his children to retreat, and the General handed him a paper, saying angrily: "Take this and sign immediately against the idols which you call icons, otherwise we will slaughter all of you. It is a decree of the Pious King Constantine V." You should rather say Copronymos", said Egoumenos Theosteriktos. "We will never sign against the Sacred Icons, which we honorably venerate."

Upon the holy Abbot saying this, the General angrily commanded the slaughter to begin. Within a few minutes, 400 hundred monks had fallen dead. Following this the General gave another order: to tie the rest with chains and take them out to the courtyard. He then ordered a fire ignited at every corner of the Monastery for everything to be reduced to ashes. Thus the beautiful Monastery was reduced by the flames of fire to ashes.

The captured monks were then led to emperor Copronymos and appeared before him. Copronymos asked General Michael: "How many are there?"  The General answered: "40 Hieromonks, 342 Monks and the Egoumenos."

In a rage Copronymos addressed the monks: "Worthless monks! Recalcitrant and reactionary in my kingdom, come before me! I am Constantine the Fifth and I do not banter."

On monk with a smile on his face approached the emperor, Sinesios by name, and he said: "Copronymos! We are children of Theosteriktos and learned from our Elder to trample upon the head of the Devil and the Iconoclasts." By saying this, the monk Sinesios sealed his fate. The emperor ordered his immediate beheading.

After this the emperor questioned the monks one by one, and had each of those who abided by the Orthodox Faith beheaded at that moment. As the heart of Corponymos rejoiced, the blood of dozens of holy monks ran like a river.

Following the slaughter, the emperor ordered Theosteriktos to approach him. The Saint approached with joy for the opportunity to confess his Faith, yet with sadness and tears also for such a horror displayed.

In a loud rage the emperor yelled: "Murderer! Executioner! You killed 780 of your children on a whim, in order not to throw away your idols which you call icons. Murderer, you will be known in the history books as committing infanticide."

The Abbot didn't say anything. He walked over to the wall where a painting of the emperor hung, and he threw it down and trampled on it. He then said: "Such dishonor is worthy of you Copronymos. I am a venerator of the Venerable Icons and I thirst for this death. In fact, I'm in a rush to catch up with my golden and blessed children, my crown and praise."

The next day the emperor called forth again the Egoumenos, and receiving from him the same answer, it was ordered that his nose, ears and fingers be cut off. Then with pliers strips of skin were pulled from his body, and in a bloody state he was thrown into a dark prison where he was not to be given either food or water, in order to die there. Yet Saint Theosteriktos survived in this prison for nine years, thanks to the generosity of certain soldiers who sneaked in bread and water.

In the year Copronymos died, Leo IV, his son, succeeded him to the throne. Though frail in body, he had a merciful soul. Leo freed all prisoners who venerated the Sacred Icons. Abbot Theosteriktos was released also and brought back to his Monastery, which now lay in ruin.

Saint Theosteriktos received offers from nearby monasteries to take him in, but he refused, preferring rather to live in his own Monastery, where he had lived with his children and lived happily. In the corner of the ruins he built himself a wooden hut and decided to live there for the rest of his life alone. It was there, among the ruins of his Monastery and after the experience of so much suffering, that he at some point composed the Small Paraklesis Canon to the Theotokos.

He began:

"With continuous temptations surrounding me, Searching for salvation, I have hastened unto you; O Mother of the Word, and Virgin, From all distresses and dangers deliver me."

After three years in seclusion, new monastics came to this holy Elder, who had no fingers, nose or ears, and asked him to be their abbot. Daring not to go against the will of God, Saint Theosteriktos took them under his supervision, and within months 800 monks gathered in the Monastery.

Geronda (Elder) Theosteriktos lived another 25 years with his Brotherhood, and the Pelekete Monastery was revived. On the 17th of March in 807 A.D., the soul of Saint Theosteriktos met his martyred children, and the last words of Saint Theosteriktos are said to have been: "Your precious Icon we venerate, O Good One, pleading forgiveness for our transgressions, Christ God…"

Please note: As we prepare to enter into the holy August Lent and worship our God and seek the holy intercessions of the Theotokos through the holy Paraklesis Canon let us remember how and why it was written by Saint Theosteriktos. Glory be to God in everything!

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George