Prayer ropes used by Orthodox Christians to pray are known as Chotki, Komboskini or Komvoschonion. These are somewhat similar to the Rosary of the Roman Catholics.
The prayer rope is part of the habit of Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns who pray “Jesus Prayer” instead of “Hail Mary” and “Our Father.”
The Jesus Prayer is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox & Oriental Orthodox churches:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”
The prayer rope dates back to the origins of Christian monasticism itself. It was the custom of the monks to pray the entire 150 Psalms every day. However, because some of the monks were illiterate, they would have to memorize the psalms or perform other prayers and prostrations in their stead. Thus, the tradition of saying 150 or more Jesus Prayers every day began. The prayer rope becomes a very practical tool in such cases for keeping count of the prayers said.
To the Orthodox Christians prayer is heartfelt and inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is a weapon that defeats Satan and the prayer rope is the sword of the Spirit.
The Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, refer to the canonical hours as the ‘Divine Services,’ and the Book of Hours as the Horologion (Greek: ῾Ωρολόγιον).
The practice of daily prayers grew from the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at set times of the day. In the Book of Acts, Peter and John visit the Temple for the afternoon prayers: Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1)
In the Psalms we read: Seven times a day I praise you because your judgments are righteous. (Psalms 119:164)
Among some Orthodox monastics, the canonical hours and preparation for Holy Communion may be replaced by praying the Jesus Prayer a specified number of times.
Historically, the prayer rope would typically have 100 knots. However, today, Chotkis come in a variety of sizes: 33, 50, 100, 101, 103, 150, and 300 beads tied from 100% wool. Most versions come with multiple divider beads, a knotted cross or a tassel, said to be used to wipe away one’s tears. The Greek Komvoschonion is usually made of knotted wool or “rattail”, while the Byzantine Ruthenians of the Carpatho-Rusyn Mountains use strung wooden beads.
How to Pray a Chotki
Praying the Chotki can be very elaborate, with an entire liturgy written for this purpose or can be very simple using a variation of the Jesus Prayer on each bead.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.“
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, through the prayers of Your most holy mother, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.“
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.“
Many scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India, and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.
The Roman Catholics use the word ‘Rosary’ to describe a string of prayer beads, a device used to keep count of the recited prayers, as well as a sequence of prayers.
In the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, the Rosary is a sacramental and Marian devotion to prayer to commemorate events in the life of Jesus.
Traditionally, the prayer beads have consisted of strings of similarly sized beads, seeds, knots, or even rose petals and beads made from crushed roses, from which we get the word “rosary.” In Latin the term “rosarium” means ‘crown of roses’ or ‘garland of roses.’ The Roman Catholics sometimes write the word ‘rosary’ with an initial capital as ‘Rosary.’
To the Roman Catholics, the Rosary is above all a protracted prayer that helps to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother Mary. Strongly associated with the Blessed Mother, the Rosary relies on her intercession with her Divine Son and on her ability to raise the minds and hearts of the faithful to God through both vocal prayer and reflection on all that God has done for us.
According to Cornelius Sneck, a disciple of the French Dominican Blessed Alain de la Roche, the concept of the rosary was given to Saint Dominic in an apparition by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the year 1208 at the church of Prouille in a hamlet in Languedoc, France. Here are the words of Cornelius:
We read that at the time when he was preaching to the Albigenses, St. Dominic at first obtained but scanty success: and that one day, complaining of this in pious prayer to our Blessed Lady, she deigned to reply to him, saying:
‘Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labors, you have spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.‘
Traditionally, from this time onwards, the Rosary included 150 “Hail Marys,” one for each of the Psalms, which were gradually divided into 15 groups of ten each, corresponding to the 15 mysteries of the Rosary for meditation. Therefore, technically, a complete Rosary was for many years 15 decades long. Nowadays, the most commonly used Rosary has five decades, and the mysteries were commonly divided into three groups, the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious, with five mysteries in each group.
Thirteen popes starting with Pope Leo XIII supported the tradition that the Blessed Virgin Mary first revealed the Rosary devotion to St. Dominic.
How to recite the Holy Rosary
IN THE NAME of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (As you say this, with your right hand touch your forehead when you say Father, touch your breastbone when you say Son, touch your left shoulder when you say Holy, and touch your right shoulder when you say Spirit.)
I BELIEVE IN GOD, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
OUR FATHER, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
HAIL MARY, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O MY JESUS, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.
HAIL HOLY QUEEN, mother of mercy; our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of he promises of Christ. Amen.
O GOD, WHOSE only-begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
ANNOUNCE each mystery by saying something like, “The third Joyful Mystery is the Birth of Our Lord.” This is required only when saying the Rosary in a group.
Say the above prayers in the order shown in following image:
1. IN THE NAME…
2. I BELIEVE IN GOD…
3. OUR FATHER…
4 – 6. HAIL MARY…
7. GLORY BE…
8. O MY JESUS…
THE FIRST DECADE
10. OUR FATHER…
11 – 20. HAIL MARY…
21. GLORY BE…
22. O MY JESUS…
THE SECOND DECADE
24. OUR FATHER…
25 – 34. HAIL MARY…
35. GLORY BE…
36. O MY JESUS…
THE THIRD DECADE
38. OUR FATHER…
39 – 48. HAIL MARY…
49. GLORY BE…
50. O MY JESUS…
THE FOURTH DECADE
52. OUR FATHER…
53 – 62. HAIL MARY…
63. GLORY BE…
64. O MY JESUS…
THE FIFTH DECADE
66. OUR FATHER…
67 – 76. HAIL MARY…
77. GLORY BE…
78. O MY JESUS…
79. HAIL HOLY QUEEN…
80. O GOD, WHOSE…
81. IN THE NAME…
The Mysteries of the Rosary
The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which allow the faithful to contemplate on the life and death of Jesus – from the “Annunciation” of the birth of Jesus to his “Ascension” into heaven, and beyond.
The three Mysteries are known as: the Joyful (or Joyous), the Sorrowful, and the Glorious.
Each of these Mysteries allows the faithful to contemplate on five different stages of Christ’s life. Based on the long-standing custom, these traditional 15 Mysteries of the Rosary were standardized by Pope Pius V in the 16th century.
In October 2002, Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae recommended an additional set of Mysteries called the Luminous Mysteries (or the “Mysteries of Light”) thus increasing the total number of mysteries to twenty.
Various other mysteries for meditation and thematic Scriptural passages called ‘Scriptural Rosary’ have been provided. Though these additional offerings are not official, they are perfectly acceptable means of praying the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries of salvation by the faithful.
Although it is recommended, it is not obligatory to recite the fruits of the mystery before each decade. As such, many Catholics have long forgotten the fruits of the mysteries.
Joyful Mysteries (Monday, Saturday)
The Annunciation (of the Birth of the Savior to Mary). Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
The Visitation (of Mary to Elizabeth and John the Baptist).
Fruit of the Mystery: Charity, Love of neighbor
The Nativity of Our Lord.
Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty of spirit, Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of riches, Love of the poor
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
Fruit of the Mystery: Obedience, Purity of intention
The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
Fruit of the Mystery: Piety
Sorrowful Mysteries (Tuesday, Friday)
The Agony in the Garden:
Fruit of the Mystery: Contrition, Conformity to the will of God
The Scourging at the Pillar:
Fruit of the Mystery: Purity, Mortification
The Crowning with Thorns:
Fruit of the Mystery: Moral Courage, Contempt of the world
The Carrying of the Cross:
Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
Fruit of the Mystery: Final perseverance, Salvation, Self-Denial
Glorious Mysteries (Sunday, Wednesday)
Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
Fruit of the Mystery: Hope, Desire for Heaven
The Descent of the Holy Spirit (on Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost):
Fruit of the Mystery: Love of God, Wisdom, Knowing and sharing the truth
The Assumption of Mary:
Fruit of the Mystery: Devotion to Mary, Grace of a happy death
The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Fruit of the Mystery: Eternal Happiness
Luminous Mysteries (Thursday)
The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan:
Fruit of the Mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit, Living one’s baptismal promises
The Miracle at Cana: To Jesus through Mary,
Fruit of the Mystery: Doing whatever Jesus says
The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God:
Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance, Trust in God
Fruit of the Mystery: Becoming a new person in Christ, Desire for holiness
The Institution of the Eucharist:
Fruit of the Mystery: Eucharistic Adoration, Active participation at Mass