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The Orthodox Rosary

Supplicatory Canon to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

Canon of Repentance To our Lord Jesus Christ


INTRODUCTION

Commonly referred to as the Rosary, it was known as Our Lady's Psalter in the ancient Christian West and is known as The Rule of the Theotokos (Mother of God) in the East. It's an Orthodox Christian devotion based on praying the Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary) 150 times. The prayer rule consists of 150 Angelic Salutations, divided into 15 decades. Each decade focuses on an important event in the life of the Mother of God. The Orthodox Rosary is prayed on a Prayer Rope, also called a Chotki or Comboschini. The same Prayer Rope used for the Jesus Prayer is used for this devotion. To pray the Rosary, a Prayer Rope is used where the knots are divided into groups of ten, or decades, with a bead separating each decade.

Many people think that the Rosary originated in Roman Catholicism and that it is a Roman Catholic devotion, but that is not historically correct. “The rosary was originally an Orthodox form of prayer that was later adopted by the Roman Catholics” (1).

“The prayer rope was formed by St. Pachomius in the fourth century. From there the rosary developed, some say as early as the eighth century” (2). While the devotion originated among the monks of ancient Egypt, it was given name the Rosary by the Christians of the British Isles.

OUR LADY’S PSALTER: THE ROSARY OR GARLAND OF ROSES

The monks of the Egyptian Thebaid were praying one hundred fifty Angelic Salutations (Hail Mary’s) grouped into fifteen decades following the pattern of the one hundred and fifty Psalms as early as the fourth century. However, while the origin of The Rule of the Theotokos, or Our Lady’s Psalter, is found in ancient Egypt, the term “Rosary” — or “garland of roses” — has its origin in the British Isles.

“It was the Western Celtic and Sarum Rites that were to develop what is today called the ‘rosary’ or ‘garland of roses.’ The Western Churches, like those of the East, had a great devotion to the Psalter of David which they divided into three parts composed of fifty psalms each. The ‘Three Fifties’ were recited for the dead and for all manner of other intentions as well by both monastics and lay-people.

“To accommodate monks and laity who could not read, little psalters were devised based on the repetition of the Lord's Prayer and the Angelical Salutation 150 times, divided into three fifties as well. Other psalters based on meditations on the life of Christ and the Most Holy Mother of God were also developed. Soon these were all fused into ‘Our Lady's Psalter’ or the ‘Rosary.’ The use of such rosaries is of a venerable age and the Western Rites of the Orthodox Church continue in its use” (3).

SOMETIMES CALLED ST. SERAPHIM’S ROSARY

The Orthodox Rosary is sometimes called St. Seraphim’s Rosary after two great Saints of the Orthodox Church — both named St. Seraphim — who were proponents of The Rule of the Theotokos: St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833) and St. Seraphim Zvezdinsky (1883-1937).

Fr. Zosima, one of the spiritual children of St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “In my hands I have a hand-written book from the cell of Saint Seraphim, containing a description of the many miracles which took place through praying to the Mother of God and especially through saying one hundred and fifty times the O Hail, Mother of God and Virgin [an Eastern Rite version of the Angelic salutation]. If, being unaccustomed to it, it is difficult to master one hundred and fifty repetitions daily, say it fifty times at first…Whomever he spoke to about this miracle-working Rule remained grateful to him.”

St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) was an Endoverie (Old Rite) Russian Orthodox bishop who had been consecrated to the episcopate by St. Tikhon of Moscow as Bishop of Dimitrov, and was martyred by the Soviet communists in 1937. He was tonsured a monk with the name of Seraphim after St. Seraphim of Sarov. He had great devotion to the Mother of God; and received from God the gift of preaching, becoming well known for his sermons. St. Seraphim Zvezdinsky also possessed the gifts of clairvoyance and healing of the sick; these gifts manifested themselves many times throughout his life.

Fr. Alexander Gumanovsky writes: “Bishop Seraphim Zvezdinsky performed the Rule of the Mother of God every day, and, when he performed it he prayed for the whole world, embracing in his Rule the whole life of the Queen of Heaven.”

HOW THE ROSARY IS PRAYED

Our Lady’s Psalter — the Rosary — usually includes introductory and closing prayers. Those following the Western liturgical tradition should follow a standard form, such as opening with the Sign of the Cross, and then saying “O Lord, open thou my [our] lips. And my [our] mouth shall show forth thy praise. O God, made make speed to save me [us]. O Lord, make haste to help me [us];” followed by “Glory be to the Father…” (Gloria Patri).

Then, the appropriate Meditation is named followed by the Lord’s Prayer on the bead and ten Hail Mary’s on the knots. Fifteen decades, or at least five decades, are thus prayed, each preceded by naming the appropriate Meditation and then praying the Lord’s Prayer and ten Hail Marys. The Rosary, can then be concluded with a closing prayer such as the Salve Regina or Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven).

There are fifteen Meditations:

Meditation 1- The Birth of the Theotokos [Theotokos means, Mother of God]

Meditation 2- The Presentation of the Theotokos

Meditation 3- The Annunciation of the Lord's Birth

Meditation 4- The Meeting of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth

Meditation 5- The Birth of the Lord

Meditation 6- The Prophecy of St. Simeon

Meditation 7- The Flight into Egypt

Meditation 8- The Boy-Christ among the Doctors

Meditation 9- The Wedding of Cana

Meditation 10- The Crucifixion of the Lord

Meditation 11- The Resurrection of the Lord

Meditation 12- The Ascension of the Lord into Heaven

Meditation 13- Pentecost

Meditation 14- The Dormition of the Virgin Theotokos

Meditation 15- The Crowning of the Theotokos by the Blessed Trinity

There are no set Meditations for certain days of the week. The Rosary can be begun on any day, with fifteen decades or five decades prayed. If five decades are prayed, then the Rosary is begun with the first Meditation, followed by the sixth Meditation the next day, and with the eleventh Meditation on the third day. Then, the Three Fifties begin again with the first Meditation.

St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) provides spiritual direction and beautiful prayer intentions for those praying the Rosary. Fr. Alexander Gumanovsky writes, “He [St. Seraphim Zvezdinsky] gave one of his spiritual children the task of copying a plan which included his prayer to the Ever-Virgin Mary." St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky's) spiritual directions and prayer intentions are included in this guide to praying the Rosary (4).

PRAYING THE ROSARY

To pray the Rosary, begin by making the Sign of the Cross and saying,

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Spirit). Amen.

V. O Lord, open thou my [our] lips.

R. And my [our] mouth shall show forth thy praise.

V. O God, made make speed to save me [us].

R. O Lord, make haste to help me [us].

GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost (Spirit).

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end (unto all ages of ages) Amen.

Each of the Meditations may be combined with the spiritual direction and prayer intentions of St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) as is done here:

Meditation 1- The Birth of the Theotokos

First decade: Let us remember the birth of the Mother of God. Let us pray for mothers, fathers, and children.

Each Meditation is followed by the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) on the bead, and ten Angelic Salutations (Hail Marys) on the knots.

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.

Ten Hail Marys:

Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos Mary full of grace, The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls

or:

Hail Mary, full of grace,the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst 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.

Meditation 2- The Presentation of the Theotokos

Second decade: Let us remember the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God. Let us pray for those who have lost their way and fallen away from the church.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 3- The Annunciation of the Lord's Birth

Third decade: Let us remember the Annunciation of the Blessed Mother of God—let us pray for the soothing of sorrows and the consolation of those who grieve.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 4- The Meeting of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth

Fourth decade: Let us remember the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin with the righteous Elizabeth. Let us pray for the reunion of the separated, for those whose dear ones or children are living away from them or missing.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 5- The Birth of the Lord

Fifth decade: Let us remember the Birth of Christ. Let us pray for the rebirth of souls, for new life in Christ.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 6- The Prophecy of St. Simeon

Sixth decade: Let us remember the Feast of the [Presentation] of the Lord, and the words uttered by St. Simeon: “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35). Let us pray that the Mother of God will meet our souls at the hour of our death, and will contrive that we receive the Holy Sacrament with our last breath, and will lead our souls through the terrible torments.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 7- The Flight into Egypt

Seventh decade: Let us remember the flight of the Mother of God with the God-Child into Egypt. Let us pray that the Mother of God will help us avoid temptation in this life and deliver us from misfortunes.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 8- The Boy-Christ among the Doctors

Eighth decade: Let us remember the disappearance of the twelve-year old boy Jesus in Jerusalem and the sorrow of the Mother of God on this account. Let us pray, begging the Mother of God for the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 9- The Wedding of Cana

Ninth decade: Let us remember-the miracle performed in Cana of Galilee, when the Lord turned water into wine at the words of the Mother of God: “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Let us ask the Mother of God for help in our affairs and deliverance from need.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 10- The Crucifixion of the Lord

Tenth decade: Let us remember the Mother of God standing at the Cross of the Lord, when grief pierced through her heart like a sword. Let us pray to the Mother of God for the strengthening of our Souls and the banishment of despondency.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 11- The Resurrection of the Lord

Eleventh decade: Let us remember the Resurrection of Christ and ask the Mother of God in prayer to resurrect our souls and give us a new courage for spiritual feats.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 12- The Ascension of the Lord into Heaven

Twelfth decade: Let us remember the Ascension of Christ, at which the Mother of God was present. Let us pray and ask the Queen of Heaven to raise up our souls from earthly and worldly amusements and direct them to striving for higher things.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 13- Pentecost

Thirteenth decade: Let us remember the Upper Room and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the Mother of God. Let us pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51).

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 14- The Dormition of the Virgin Theotokos

Fourteenth decade: Let us remember the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, and ask for a peaceful and serene end.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten Hail Marys.

Meditation 15- The Crowning of the Theotokos by the Blessed Trinity