The Orthodox Christian Prayer Rope

by 1389 on November 5, 2012

in 1389 (blog admin), Greece, Orthodox Christianity, Russia, Serbia

This article serves as a brief introduction. However, the prayer rope is not just for Serbs, but rather, pan-Orthodox. It’s for everybody, not just for those with a monastic vocation.

Britić – The British Serb Magazine: The Serbian Orthodox Prayer Rope

October 31, 2012 – by Ilija Kadaonica

Serbian Orthodox prayer rope

In Eastern Orthodoxy the prayer rope predates the Catholic rosary and is mainly a monastic devotion. Prayer ropes are most commonly made of 33 knots but also 100 or 300 knot ropes are used and other variations are possible.

The prayer rope is called a “brojanica” in Serbian whilst the Russians  call it a “chotki” or “komboskini” and the Greeks call it a “kombostini.” Typically they are made of woven wool that has been knotted or it can be made of string or leather with the appropriate number of beads added. The prayer rope can be worn as a bracelet in the case of the 33 knot version or a necklace in the case of the longer versions mostly worn in monastic circles.

Most commonly Serbs will wear the 33 knot “brojanica” in which typically each knot is formed with 9 separate crosses a practice made  popular during the 17th century. The use of the prayer rope however is ancient in Orthodox spirituality and it predates the western rosary by centuries.

The prayer rope is traditionally used by Monastics to count repetitions of the “The Jesus Prayer”, which may replace attendance at Services for those assigned to work or otherwise engaged. As such the role of the prayer rope can be of particular relevance to the lay person in today’s busy modern world.

 The Jesus Prayer
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”

Also commonly recited with the aid of the prayer rope is “The Prayer of the Publican”. This prayer along with “The Jesus Prayer” are often referred to as “The Prayers of the Heart.”

The Prayer of the Publican
“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”

Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, “The Jesus Prayer is a prayer of marvelous versatility. It is a prayer for beginners, but equally a prayer that leads to the deepest mysteries of the contemplative life. It can be used by anyone, at any time, in any place: standing in queues, walking, traveling on buses or trains; when at work; when unable to sleep at night; at times of special anxiety when it is impossible to concentrate upon other kinds of prayer.”

If the prayer is recited more or less continually whilst using the physical exercises which have become associated with it in monastic circles for some there comes a time when the Jesus Prayer ‘enters into the heart,’ so that it is no longer recited by a deliberate effort, but recites itself spontaneously, continuing even when a man is engaged in other activities or in his sleep.
hand with prayer rope
In the words of Saint Isaac the Syrian, “‘When the Spirit takes its dwelling-place in a man he does not cease to pray, because the Spirit will constantly pray in him. Then, neither when he sleeps, nor when he is awake, will prayer be cut off from his soul; but when he eats and when he drinks, when he lies down or when he does any work, even when he is immersed in sleep, the perfumes of prayer will breathe in his heart spontaneously.”

The “brojanica” is often bought as a souvenir from Orthodox churches and Monasteries and given as a gift. You probably have one knocking about at the back of a drawer somewhere. Why not try it on and see how you get on with it.

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