Rope or Ring
It is called a rope made of, usually, black woolen or silk thread knitted in knots. It is a prayer aid for monks, clergy and laity of the Orthodox Christian religion. It is more widespread in the geographical area it covers, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Similar prayer aids for monks or lay people exist in other religions and traditions, known by other names.
The rosary in the Orthodox Church
The rosary that all Orthodox monks have and that is also used by many Orthodox lay people, is usually woolen and braided in various sizes. From very small, worn on the finger, to very large: 33ari (with 33 knots), 50ari (with 50 knots), 100ari, 500ari etc.
According to tradition, Saint Pachomius in 320 AD, founded with the help of St. Anthony the first monastery in Thebes in Egypt. He began to look for a way to help the monks in concentrating their prayers and numbering their wishes. According to tradition, the Archangel Gabriel visited Saint Pachomius in his sleep and showed him how to make the tool that would serve the needs of prayer. This tool was the rosary.
In the prayer with a rosary, which helps a lot in the concentration of the mind, a specific technical method is followed. At each knot that passes between his fingers, the praying person says successively the wishes: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the sinner, Most Holy Theotokos, save us, Saints of God, you have advocated for us. It is possible to say only the wish Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on the sinner. The rosary is designed for prayer, not to act as a bracelet on the wrist.
In the rosary, each part of it has some symbolic meaning. It is woven mainly of wool to remind the members of the Church that they are the rational sheep of Jesus Christ (John 10:11). It has a black color that symbolizes the mourning of sins since “no one is sinless” (cf. 3 Kings 8:46, Job 4:17, Rom. 3: 9-12, etc.). The rosary bears the cross on it to remind us “that Christ died for us, a sinner” (Rom. 5: 8). Usually the rosary ends in a tassel whose purpose is to wipe away the tears (“in tears I wet my feet” Luke 7:44). The 33 knots symbolize the years of Jesus Christ, the 99 knots are the 33 multiplied by the number of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and each knot consists of 9 braided crosses, which symbolize the nine orders of angels. However, while the number of crosses that make up each knot always remains constant, the number of knots that make up the rosary depends on the number of prayers for which it will be used. Although in its classic form the rosary is made of black wool, it should be noted that there are rosaries made of other materials besides wool, e.g. acrylics as well as various colors.
It is used as a “prayer tool” when we count a knot every time a prayer is said (usually a short wish). This way the number of repetitions or the passage of time can be controlled. Some rosaries have beads every 33, 50 or 100 knots. Each time a bead is measured the person praying does something else, the point of the cross, “repentance” or change the form of the prayer. It is not considered necessary, but it is an optional aid. Those who have advanced to the Wish of Jesus consider it unnecessary, but recognize its usefulness by those who are just beginning. The main purpose of the rosary is to help us in our prayer to God and His Saints. Apart from serving as a constant external reminder and blessing, how can this little rosary help us to pray? Of course, we can pray without it, and sometimes it can even distract us from trying to concentrate on prayer. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways in which the rosary helps us.
Sometimes our prayer is warm and it is easy for us to pray. But sometimes our minds are so scattered or we are so disturbed or so distracted that it is practically impossible for us to concentrate on prayer. This is especially true when we try to follow a daily prayer rule. Some days go well, but sometimes most of the time our efforts seem almost in vain. But because, as they say, we are beings of habit, it is very beneficial to set a specific and regular time of day for prayer. The evening time (not too late) before going to bed is good, because it is important to end the day with prayer. In the morning, waking up, it is also good to start the new day with prayer. One can still find other hours of the day where he can calm down and concentrate.
Our effort is to establish prayer as a rule in our lives, not as an exception. In this we seek to find a time when every day we can have a little peace, so that we can concentrate and turn the eyes of our soul to God. As part of this rule we may want to read some prayers from a prayer room or pray and find peace of mind in other ways, such as by reading religious texts or reviewing the events of the past day and so on. But the most effective way to benefit from the rule of prayer is to say the prayer of Jesus regularly (Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me) on a regular basis. This number does not need to be large and may only take about fifteen minutes. But this will be the part of our day that belongs to God, the few grains of salt that will taste our whole spiritual life. Many doctors today recommend this practice for the sake of physical health, especially to overcome stress. Even better, let us find various such short intervals throughout the day and let us regularly fill them with the precious treasures of prayer, which no one can steal and which are saved for us in Heaven.
If you want to keep a fixed number of prayers as part of the daily rule, you will be greatly helped by the rosary. With this you can say a certain number of prayers and concentrate on the words of the prayer as you say it. After concentrating, take the rosary in your left hand and hold it lightly between your thumb and forefinger. Then quietly making your Cross whisper the wish of Jesus. As your thoughts become more and more concentrated, you may not need to keep crucifying yourself or saying the prayer aloud. But when you have difficulty concentrating, use the sign of the Cross and the whisper as tools to help you keep your mind on prayer.
It is good to stand with your head bowed in a humble position. Some want to raise their hands from time to time, asking for mercy. Others, however, find it more helpful to sit or kneel with their head bowed so that they can concentrate. Much depends on the individual himself, on his health and upbringing. The most important thing is to stay still and concentrate on the words of the prayer as you repeat it. Of course, one must resist the temptation to rush. For this reason some instead of a rosary use a clock as an external meter of their prayer duration by adjusting the alarm clock accordingly. By using the clock one can dedicate a set time to prayer, without counting the exact number of prayers.
The rosary is also a convenient way to measure the small or large “repentances” (kneeling) that one does in one’s rule. Doing the sign of the Cross and then bending over and touching the ground with your fingers or kneeling and resting your forehead on the ground is an ancient way of praying to God and His Saints. One can combine these small or large penances with the wish of Jesus or the short prayers we mentioned earlier. The bodily movement of small or large “repentance” (light or deep, that is, earthly, kneeling) can contribute to the warmth of prayer and give an external expression to our supplication as we humble ourselves before God. It is another way of applying the Apostolic command to glorify God with both our souls and our bodies.
Many people use the rosary when they retire to sleep. They cross their bed, take the rosary, make the sign of the Cross, lie down and say the wish quietly, until they fall asleep. Waking up with the rosary between your fingers or next to your pillow helps you start the new day with prayer. But ending the previous day with a quiet prayer is an even better way to prepare for a prayerful beginning of the new day, not to mention preparing for the Eternal Day, in the event that we fall asleep that night. Still others take the rosary in their hand in moments of inactivity, such as when they go to work or travel. At any time of the day you remember, take a small rosary in your hand. Combining this movement with the prayer you do at other times will help you concentrate and pray a few times during the day, wherever you are and whatever you do. This is an important step in fulfilling the command to pray without ceasing.
Saint Bishop Ignatius Brianjaninov says that the long services of the Church are a good opportunity to pray with the rosary. It is often difficult to concentrate on the words that are read or sung in the Holy Temple and it is easier to concentrate quietly on one’s own prayers, whether they are improvised, related to a special need, or prayers and hymns that one knows from the outside, or short prayers especially the wish of Jesus repeated with the help of the rosary. In practice in this way you can concentrate better in the Holy Communion itself, as Saint Seraphim of Sarov says. Of course, when we pray in the Holy Communions, our prayer is united with the prayer of the whole Church.
Our mind is constantly occupied with various thoughts. We do not have time to start praying and we immediately catch our mind thinking of something else. And in this case the presence of the rosary on our fingers can help us keep our mind and return to the work of prayer faster. Also, when we encounter a bead mark or the Cross of the Rosary, as we move its knots with our fingers, we understand if our mind did not pay attention to the prayers we intended to do. Thus, we can offer our prayers again without engaging in thoughts about how easily we are distracted from our prayer to God. Here we made a reference to the great science of prayer, that which the Holy Fathers called the art of the arts. There is an extensive and rich literature from the great men of prayer of all ages, who can help and guide us in learning, with the help of God, the greatest and most useful of all sciences. Regular reading of the Bible, the Lives of the Saints, and other pious and spiritual texts can help greatly. Books like “Philokalia” contain great and inspiring tips and instructions to learn to pray as a Christian, because prayer is an essential element of being a Christian. Above all, however, we need the grace of God in the Church, especially through the Holy Confession and the Communion of the Eternal Mysteries. These are just a few introductory thoughts on how to use the rosary to your advantage. But the most important thing is to start praying. The rosary does not pray on its own, although some are so beautiful that they can give this impression. It is of course an important traditional aid for our prayer and especially for a daily prayer rule. But the key is to concentrate on the words of prayer and offer heartfelt prayers to Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. If this little rosary helps you say a prayer or reminds you to pray or helps you in some way to become more prayerful, then it has fulfilled its purpose. He has bound you closer and closer to Christ, our God, and has brought you closer to the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God is within you.
Reasons of p. Paisiou on the rosary.
ELDER PAISIOS: “THE KOMBOSHONI IS THE AUTOMATIC WEAPON OF EVERY CHRISTIAN AGAINST THE DEVIL!”
– Elder, what is the significance of the rosary?
– The rosary is a legacy, a blessing, left to us by our Holy Fathers. And only for that it has great value. You see, someone’s grandfather leaves a legacy of an insignificant thing and then has it as an amulet, let alone the rosary that the Holy Fathers left us as a legacy!
In the old days, when there were no clocks, the monks counted the time of prayer with the rosary, but the knots of the rosary were simple. Once upon a time an ascetic made a lot of struggle, many penances, etc. , and the devil went and untied the knots of his rosary. The poor man did – he repented and we left, because he could not count them, since the devil was constantly untying his knots. Then an Angel of the Lord appeared and taught him how to knit the knots, so that in each knot nine crosses were formed. The devil after, who trembles at the cross, could not solve them. Thus each knot of the rosary has nine crosses, which symbolize the nine orders of Angels.
– Elder, what do the thirty-three, the fifty, the one hundred and the three hundred knots that the rosaries have mean?
– Only the number thirty-three is symbolic – it symbolizes the thirty-three years that Christ lived on earth. The other numbers just help us count the penances we do or how many times we say the wish.
Some machines have a rope with a handle on the edge and, when you want to push them forward, you sometimes pull the rope with force, until the pneumatic oils thaw. So the rosary is the rope which we pull one – two – five – ten times and the spiritual oils thaw and the spiritual machine of unceasing prayer starts, so the heart works on its own in prayer. But, even when the heart goes to the wish, again we must not remove the rosary, so as not to motivate others to remove it, while their heart has not yet moved to the wish.
– When, Elder, I hold my rosary and say the wish mechanically, is there a danger of humankind?
– If you make a rosary externally out of humankind, even if you peel your hands, it will not benefit you at all. Only fatigue will bring you the illusion that you are supposedly engaged in mental prayer.
– Elder, I’m not used to holding a rosary.
– Hold the rosary, so as not to forget the wish, which you must work internally, in the heart. In fact, when you leave your cell, remember that the enemy is ready to attack. Therefore, to imitate the good soldier who, coming out of the machine gun, always has the automatic weapon “in hand”. The rosary has great power ˙ is the monk’s weapon and the knots are bullets, which reap the pads.
From the book: “ELDER PAISIOS AGIORETOS, REASONS z – ABOUT PRAYER”
HOLY HOSPITAL “EVANGELISTIS IOANNIS THE THEOLOGIST”, SOUROTI THESSALONIKI