Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another Prayer Rule!

Hi Everyone,

I'm sorry I've been absent for some time. My family and I just moved from the Northern Virginia area to the Northern Kentucky area (Greater Cincinnati). The move has been quite an adventure, but my wife and I are both very happy with it because we're in a much better place and we're closer to family here. It's nice to be back in the area that I grew up in - albeit on the Kentucky side of that area.

Another happy circumstance that came from the move is that I've stumbled across another prayer rule focused on the Jesus Prayer. I found this rule in the prayer book Let Us Pray to the Lord: Volume 1, Daily Office published by Eastern Christian Publications. This is an excellent little prayer book that I highly recommend, especially to those who are interested in the Slavic (Ukrainian, Russian, Carpatho-Russyn/Ruthenian and, to some extent, Romanian) usage of the Byzantine tradition. Although my favorite prayer book is still the Publican's Prayer Book put out by the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton, I find Let Us Pray to the Lord to be a wonderful source of prayer as well, particularly if you'd prefer a prayer rule that is more centered around the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours.

Towards the back of the book there are a couple pages on the Jesus Prayer, including a short rule intended for monastic use, but certainly usable/adaptable for the purposes of us lay folk as well. The rule itself comes from the typical edition of the Casoslav/Horologion published originally in 1950 in Rome as part of the historic Ruthenian Recension. The Recension is a very interesting multi-volume liturgical publication that was the result of years of turmoil within the Slavic-Byzantine Catholic Churches as they struggled between a desire to cling to "Latinizations" on the one hand, and a desire to restore the authentic Byzantine tradition on the other. One of my personal heroes, Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky, was at the center of the turmoil, fighting tooth and nail to restore authentic Eastern praxis. The Recension was Rome's response to the turmoil after being asked to intervene. Interestingly, the result was a recension so "purified" of Latin influence that it was/is used among the Orthodox in the Slavic lands as well.

But setting aside the background of the Recension itself, the book provides the following simple rule for the Jesus Prayer:

After making the Sign of the Cross, each of the following prayers are said with accompanying prostrations:

O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

O God, cleanse me of my sins, and have mercy on me!

O Lord, You are my Creator, have mercy on me!

O Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned without number.

Then we pray:

O Virgin Lady, Theotokos (Mother of God), save me!

My holy guardian angel, protect me from all harm!

Holy (your patron saint), pray to God for me.

Then we pray the Jesus Prayer 100 times. If there are divider beads on your prayer rope, one would pray "Most Holy Theotokos (Mother of God), save us!" on those beads.

The beauty of such a simple rule is its ease of adaptation. One could just as easily pray 33, 50, 100, 150, or even 300 Jesus Prayers with such a simple rule. It is also an easy rule to memorize since all the prayers are so short. I actually find this rule to be much easier to perform and adapt than the Rule of St. Pachomius I posted some time back.

The only thing I find wanting in this simple rule is the lack of closing prayers. I like to have closure at the end of my prayer rule. Such a lack is easily remedied, however. I just simply pray:

"It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos. You are ever-blessed and all-blameless, and the Mother of our God. Higher in honor than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. You who without corruption did bear God the Word. You are truly Theotokos, we magnify you."

And then:

"Through the prayers + of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us."

It's simple, it's easily remembered, it is adaptable! I'm quite pleased to have rediscovered this little rule and will be using it much more often from here on out. May heaven consume us!


  1. Thank you for a great post!!!! The prayer traditions of the East are amazing....

    1. Thank you Philip for a great web site, I am finding it very helpful and inspirational. Always read all your posts. Regarding your this post on the Jesus Prayer, it is good prayer the Jesus in a more structed way.

    2. They are indeed amazing. I feel very privileged to have studied and experienced them first-hand for a number of years now.

  2. That's what I was wondering. I'm just learning about the practices of the East.

  3. Prostrations (both type and number) are really almost a matter of personal preference and/or strength. Most commonly one would do a full prostration: getting down on one's knees, placing one's hands on the floor, and then bowing down until one's head touches the floor. One could also simply do a "profound metany/bow:" bending at the waist and extending one's right hand to the floor with the palm facing out/up and then touching the floor with one's fingertips. I find a profound bow requires me to bend slightly at the knees as well. Finally one could do a simple bow at the waist.

    There really is no hard and fast rule for prostrations and bows. In a future post (coming hopefully within the next week) I plan on commenting on the type and number of bows with the aid of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov's "The Arena." Sorry I haven't posted more recently. My wife and I just moved from Virginia to Kentucky and we've been busy unpacking - I've also been busy settling in to my new job.

  4. Hi Phillip Nice blog, surprised I have only just come across it. I am RC Benedictine monk in Scotland but the Philokalia & Jesus prayer is my "path"! Good luck in your new location. Nice selection of Tchotki not sure what the plural is or indeed the spelling. Am interested in the metanies & will check out if you did the commentary on the Arena. In union of prayer my friend

    Brother Finbar OSB (ps i am an Irish traditional singer too but only inside my head now!)