The Byzantine Rosary
January 24, 1993
Brother John Raymond
Many Roman Catholics in this country are not aware of the
existence of Eastern-Rite Catholics with their traditions and
Saints. These Catholics of the Oriental Churches hold the same
beliefs as Roman Catholics. They are in full communion with the Holy
See. Just to mention a few of them: Catholic Copts, Ethiopian-Rite
Catholics, Syrians, Chaldeans, Catholic Armenians, Malabar
Catholics, Maronites and the Catholics of the Byzantine Rite, such
as Melkites, Ruthenians, Greek Catholics, Russian Catholics, etc.
Many of these Eastern Rites can be found in our own country.
One prayer which has come to us from the Byzantine Rite is called
the Byzantine Rosary. This rosary goes back to the 7th century when,
according to tradition, a Saint had an apparition recommending this
form of prayer. In Russia this rosary is called "Chotki." It is
usually made of wool in which there are 100 knots, with a large knot
at each decade. The traditional prayer of this rosary is an
adaptation of the prayer of the publican who cried out, "O God, have
mercy on me, a sinner." (LK 18: 9-14) The Lord said that this man
went home from the Temple "justified." Early Christians made several
variations of this prayer which became know as the Jesus Prayer. It
has come down to us in three forms:
1. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.
2. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
3. Lord Jesus Christ, by the prayers of Our Lady, have mercy on me.
In modern times the Jesus Prayer became very popular with the
publication of the book "The Way of a Pilgrim." It is about an
unknown, possibly fictitious, 19th-century peasant who travels
around Russia trying to learn how to pray constantly. He meets a
hermit who tells him to recite the Jesus Prayer 1,000 times a day.
The hermit keeps increasing the number of recitations a day until it
reaches 12,000. Finally the pilgrim is able to recite the prayer
habitually and continually in his heart.
Even though the Pilgrim story may not be true the attainment of
continual prayer is possible. I have met a woman who has this kind
of habitual prayer. Many people begin by praying it in rhythmn with
their breathing. While inhaling they mentally pray "Lord Jesus
Christ" and exhale with the words "have mercy on me." The breathing
then becomes like a reminder calling the mind back to the prayer.
When this prayer becomes somewhat automatic the next step is to move
the prayer from the head to the heart. One does this by trying to
focus the prayer on their heart. But one must not get the impression
that this type of prayer is totally the result of human effort.
God's grace helps those who perseveringly desire this continual
prayer. The prayer itself is an act of humility calling out for
God's merciful help.
One can make a rosary for the counting of the Jesus prayer or buy
a hand-made one for $7.00 from: Monastery of Our Savior, P.O. Box
856, Hebron, Ohio 43025.