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.