Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Praying with the Chotki

One of the central prayers in the spiritual life of Orthodox Christians in a simple prayer known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Shorter forms of the prayer like, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” may also be prayed. The most important aspect of the prayer is the invocation of the Divine Name, Jesus.

In the spiritual classic, The Way of a Pilgrim, a captain in the Russian Army talks with a pilgrim about the Jesus Prayer:

“Which is more exalted,” asked the captain, “the Jesus Prayer or the Bible?”

“It’s all the same,” I replied, “for the Divine Name of Jesus Christ contains within itself all the biblical truths. The holy Fathers say that the Jesus Prayer is the abbreviated version of the entire Bible.”

A circular rope called a chotki by Russians and a comboschini by Greeks is composed of a series of knots used for counting the number of times one prays the Jesus Prayer. The prayer rope, as it is called in English, is a spiritual sword in our battle against the influence of sin and death. It is a tool to help us pray continually from the heart, keep a constant awareness of God, and maintain intimate communion with Him. The tiny piece of rope can help us reach the summit of our human potential and the heights of Paradise.

I found a small book entitled, Comboschini: Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain of Athos, edited by the Church of Panagia Ahiropeetos in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2002. It’s short and simple, but offers a nice introduction to the use of the prayer rope and the Jesus Prayer. Thankfully, the text is available online at the Orthodox Christian Information Center. The article Saying the Jesus Prayer by Albert S. Rossi, a very good introduction to the Jesus Prayer, is available on the St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary website.

Books about the Jesus Prayer include The Way of a Pilgrim and The Jesus Prayer by a Monk of the Eastern Church.

Copyright © 2006 by Dana S. Kees. Photo copyright © 2006 by Dana S. Kees. (The above quote was taken from The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, trans. by Olga Savin. (Boston: Shambhala Classics, 2001), 22.)