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Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Byzantine Rosary (Theotokos Lestovka)

I have not posted in a while because graduate school has kept me quite busy.  Tonight however I discovered an mht file on my computer which I was quite happy to have found again - an explanation saved from a defunct website of St. Anne's Byzantine Catholic Church of the Theotokos Lestovka, the Holy Rosary of Our Lady as practiced by the East on Mount Athos since long before the prayer was ever heard of in the West.  It probably came from the Fathers of the Egyptian Thebaid in the 4th century.  In the East the prayer was only a private devotion, rarely if ever said in public and not done before Divine Liturgy as it is in the Latin Church (Matins, or Orthros as it is called, is done instead).  Here it is, copied, pasted, expanded, and edited (and corrected on some minor factual errors).


On a Western Orthodox website (http://www.westernorthodox.com/rosary.html) I found a quotation from a letter of Fr. Alexander Gumanovsky.  Gumanovsky was a spiritual son of Fr. Zossima (after whom Dostoyevsky's Fr. Zossima is modeled), who was in turn the spiritual son of St. Seraphim of Sarov.  (In the East spiritual lineage is just as important as biological lineage, not out of vainglory or pride but out of a sense of the paramount importance of the life of the spirit as opposed to merely natural life.  It's a bit similar to academic lineage in college departments, where all the professors have signs on their doors giving their lineage back to Galileo and Newton if they are physicists, or back to Liszt for example if they are musicians.  Priests know who their spiritual father's spiritual father is, etc.  My first spiritual father was the son of the very holy Elder Aimilianos Simonopetritis, for example.)


Fr. Gumanovsky quoted Fr. Zossima in saying,


…I forgot to give you a piece of advice vital for salvation. Say the Hail, Mother of God and Virgin one hundred and fifty times, and this prayer will lead you on the way to salvation. This rule was given by the Mother of God herself in about the eighth century, and at one time all Christians fulfilled it. We Orthodox have forgotten about it, and St. Seraphim has reminded me of this Rule. In my hands I have a hand-written book from the cell of St. 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. If, being unaccustomed to it, it is difficult to master one hundred and fifty repetitions daily, say it fifty times at first. After every ten repetitions say the Our Father once and "Open unto us the doors of thy loving-kindness, [O blessed Mother of God, in that we set our hope on thee, may we not go astray; but through thee may we be delivered from all adversities, for thou art the salvation of all Christian people.]"  Whomever he spoke to about this miracle-working Rule remained grateful to him…




Father Gumanovsky passed on the Rosary to his disciple, the edinovertsy Old Believer St. Seraphim Zvezdinsky, a bishop and an Old Believer in communion with Moscow.  It is from him that we learn the "Theotokos Lestovka", or "Rule of the Theotokos".  (The lestovka or "ladder" is a leather prayer rope worn on the upper arm, practiced more commonly by Old Believers.  It is similar to the chotki.)


Make the Sign of the Cross


Start at the crucifix:


+  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.


Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.


Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.


From Pascha until Ascension leave out Glory to Thee and Heavenly King and instead say three times Christ is risen from the dead - by death He trampled death, and to the those in the tombs He granted life.  From Ascension until Pentecost, simply make the sign of the cross - In the Name of the Father - before continuing as usual with:


+  Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us(Three times)


+ Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.


Most holy Trinity, have mercy on us.  Lord, cleanse us from our sins.  Master, pardon our transgressions.  Holy One come to us and heal our infirmities for Thy Name's sake.  Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.


+ Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.


Then at the first large bead on the pendant:


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


Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have no defence: this prayer do we as sinners offer Thee as Master, haver mercy on us.


+ Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.


Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.  Be not angry with us greatly nor remember our iniquities, but have mercy on us now for Thou art compassionate and delivera us from our enemies.  For Thou art our God and we Thy people; all are the works of Thy hands and we call upon Thy Name.


+  Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.


Open unto us the doors of compassion, O holy Theotokos, for hoping in thee we will not perish, but through thee will we be delivered from all adversities, for thou art the salvation of all Christians.


Lord, have mercy.  (12 times)


+ Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the HOly Ghost, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.


+  O come, let us worship God our King.
+  O come, let us worship Christ, our King and God.
+  O come, let us worship and bow down before the only Lord Jesus Christ, our King and our God.


Then you may say Psalm 50, Have mercy on me, O God - or another appropriate psalm - and the Nicene Creed, I believe in one God, the Father Almighty.


 Then at the first small bead on the pendant:
+  Glory to the Father, who hast made us, both now now and ever and forever. Amen.
Rejoice, O Theotokos, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Christ the Savior, the deliverer of our souls.
 Then at the second small bead on the pendant:
+ Glory to the Son, who hast redeemed us, both now and ever and forever. Amen.
Rejoice, O Theotokos, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne Christ the Savior, the deliverer of our souls.
 Then at the third small bead on the pendant:
+ Glory to the Holy Spirit, who hast enlightened us, both now and ever and forever. Amen.
Rejoice, O Theotokos, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne Christ the Savior, the deliverer of our souls.
+  Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and forever. Amen.
 The 15 mysteries are given to us by St. Seraphim Zvezdinsky, with the prayer intentions taken from the Western Rite Orthodox website and rephrased in a more Eastern fashion.  The prayers after each decade are taken from Phillip Rolfes' blog:


http://themasterbeadsman.blogspot.com/2012/05/prayer-rule-of-theotokos-ii-st-seraphim.html


As with the Dominican rosary, on the large bead say the Lord' Prayer, followed by Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us and then Open unto us the door of thy loving-kindness, o most blessed Theotokos.  As we set our hope in thee, let us not be confounded, but through thee may we be delivered from all adversities.  For thou art the salvation of the Christian race.  On the ten small beads in each decade, say Rejoice, O Theotokos... ten times followed by + Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and forever. Amen.  After each decade one may say the Fátima prayer: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
The mysteries according to St. Seraphim Zvezdinsky are:

1.  The Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos.  We pray for fathers, mothers, and children.
Follow the decade byOur Lady, Blessed Mother of God, save and preserve your servants (names of parents, relatives, friends), increase their faith and repentance, and when they die give them rest with the saints in your eternal glory.
2.  The Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple.  We pray for those who have lost their way and fallen away from the Church.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, save and preserve and unite or re-unite to the Holy Orthodox Church your servants who have lost their path and fallen away (names).
3.  The Annunciation to the Theotokos.  We pray for the soothing of sorrows and the consolation of those who grieve.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, soothe our sorrows and send consolation to your servants who are grieving and ill (names).
4.  The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin with the righteous Elizabeth.  We pray for the reunion of the separated, for those whose dear ones or children are living away from them or missing.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, unite your servants who are separated.
5.  The Nativity of Christ.  We pray for the rebirth of souls, or new life in Christ.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, grant unto me, who has been baptized in Christ, to be clothed in Christ.
6.  The Feast of the Purification of the Lord, and the words uttered by St. Simeon: Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also (Luke 2:35). We 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.
Follow the decade byOur Lady, Blessed Mother of God, let me receive the Holy Sacrament with my last breath, and lead my soul yourself through the terrible torments.
7.  The Flight of the Mother of God with the God-Child into Egypt.  We pray that the Theotokos will help us avoid temptation in this life and deliver us from misfortunes.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, help me avoid temptation in this life and deliver me from misfortunes.
8.  The Teaching of Jesus in the Temple at the age of twelve and the Sorrow of the Theotokos on His Disappearance.  We pray, begging the Theotokos for the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer.
Folllow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, grant to me the unceasing Jesus Prayer.
9.  The Wedding at Cana of Galilee, when the Lord turned water into wine at the words of the Theotokos: They have no wine (John 2:3).  We implore the Theotokos for deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and need.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, help me in all my affairs and deliver me from every need and sorrow.
10.  The Sorrow of Mary Standing at the Foot of the Cross.  We pray for the strengthening of our souls and the banishment of despondency.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, strengthen my soul and banish my despair.
11.  The Most Holy Resurrection.  We beg the Theotokos to resurrect our souls and give us a new courage for podvig.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, resurrect my soul and give me constant readiness for spiritual feats.
12.  The Ascension of Christ, at which the Theotokos was present.  We beg her to raise up our souls from earthly and worldly amusements and direct them to striving for higher things.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, deliver me from worldly thoughts and give me a mind and heart striving towards the salvation of my soul.
13.  Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Spirit, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Theotokos.  We 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 50).
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, make me a clean temple in which God's Holy Spirit will ever dwell.
14.  The Dormition of the Theotokos.  We ask for a Christian, painless, unashamed, peaceful end of our lives, and a good account before the fearsome judgement-seat of Christ.
Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, grant me a peaceful and serene end.
15.  The Protection (Pokrova) of the Holy Theotokos, when she casts her protecting mantle over all her faithful.  We pray that the Queen of Heaven not abandon the faithful who are on earth but to defend them from every evil, covering them with her honoring and protecting veil.


Follow the decade by:  Our Lady, Blessed Mother of God, preserve me from every evil and cover me with your honorable protecting veil.
Closing Prayer
To your protection do we fly, O Mary Theotokos; despise then not our cry.  From every peril shelter us, for you alone are immaculate - the Mother of our God. 
+  Most holy Mother of God, save us. (Three times with bows)
It is truly proper to glorify thee, who hast borne God, the ever-blessed and immaculate and the Mother of our God! More honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, who without spot gavest birth to God the Word. Thou truly the Theotokos, we magnify!

To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Mother of God: but as one with invincible might, from all dangers deliver us that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!

This last prayer is from the Akathist to Our Lady, an important Marian devotion in the Orthodox Church


Variations


Emending this blog post from its original form, I recently discovered an article by Phillip Rolfes on St. Seraphim of Sarov's Rule of the Theotokos, found here:


http://themasterbeadsman.blogspot.com/2012/05/prayer-rule-of-theotokos-iii-st.html


It is much simpler than the rule I have given above, which is to some degree tailored for my own personal use, and begins with a simple Our Father and no mysteries.  (Meditation using the imagination after all is shunned by the spiritual writers of the Philokalia.)  Instead, St. Seraphim of Sarov divided his prayers by the following fifteen ejaculations, without any further Our Fathers:
"Open to us the doors of Mercy, blessed Mother of God, so that we who hope in Thee may not perish, but be saved by Thee from troubles, for You are the salvation of the Christian people."





Then St Seraphim divided his rule into fifteen decades of Hail Mary's with the above prayer "Open to us" said at the end of each decade (No further Our Father's).





At the end of each decade, the following 15 requests are also made:





1) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, save and protect all Orthodox Christians, increase their faith and repentance, and give repose to the dead in the eternal glory of our Lord.





2) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, save and reunite to the Orthodox Church thy servants who are lost and who are fallen away.





3) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, save and protect my spiritual Father and by his holy prayers have mercy on me a sinner.





4) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, assuage our sorrows and bestow joy on thy suffering and pained servants.





5) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, save me from all evil attacks.





6) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, help me so that everything I do will be for the glory of God and the service of my neighbours.





7) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, protect me from all evil and cover me with Thy Holy Omophorion (Mantle) of Protection.





8) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, resurrect my soul and grant me constant prayer to You.





9) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, help me obtain the mercy of Your Son and our Lord and grant me the grace of fervent and continual prayer.





10) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, pray our Lord Jesus Christ to have mercy on me a sinner, to forgive all my sins and save my sinful soul.





11) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, imbue me with Your love, strengthen me with Your faith, and enlighten my eyes that are darkened by sin.





12) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, save me from evil thoughts and grant me a mind and heart that strives after salvation.





13) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, send me peace of soul and health in body.





14) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, grant me an untroubled and peaceful end and lead my soul through the terrible toll-houses.





15) O Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos, be for me, O Mother of God, an Unmoveable Wall and mighty intercession. Do not reject me a sinner, who is unworthy, who runs to your invincible Protection, for you are the hope of Christians and the refuge of sinners.
In addition, a further article
gives a completely different set of mysteries and closing-prayers, from the Russian Encyclopedia of Orthodoxy.  Credit again goes to Phillip Rolfes, and to Dr. Alexander Roman for translation.
1) Nativity of the Theotokos Your Nativity, O Mother of God, heralded joy to the whole universe, for from you rose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God. He cancelled the curse and poured forth His grace; He vanquished death and granted us eternal life.


  • 2) Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
    Today is the prelude of the benevolence of God, and the announcement of the salvation of men. In the Temple of God the Virgin is seen openly, foretelling to all the coming of Christ. Wherefore, let us cry to her in a loud voice: “Hail, O Fulfillment of the Creator’s plan.

  • 3) Death of Sts. Joachim and Anna
    Triumphant leader, to you belongs our prize of victory! And since you saved us from adversity, we offer you our thanks. We are your people, O Mother of God! But, as you have that invincible power, continue to deliver us from danger that we may cry out to you: Hail, O Virgin and Bride ever-pure!

  • 4) Annunciation/Incarnation
    Today is the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the Mystery that was planned from all eternity. The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces this grace. Let us join him in crying out to the Mother of God: “Hail, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

  • 5) Meeting of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth
    It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, who are ever-blessed and all-blameless and the Mother of our God. More honored than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, you who without stain did bear God the Word. You are truly Theotokos; we magnify you!

  • (One could also recite the Magnificat in place of the above)

    1. 6) Nativity of Christ
      Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shed the light of knowledge upon the world. Through it, those who had been star-worshippers learned through a star to worship You, O Sun of Justice, and recognize in you the One Who rises from on high; O Lord, glory to You!

    2. 7) Meeting in the Temple with Symeon
      Hail O Full of Grace, Virgin and Mother of God, from you has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, enlightening those who stand in darkness. You too O just elder Symeon, rejoice for you carried in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who grants us resurrection.

    3. 8) Flight into Egypt
      Triumphant leader, to you belongs our prize of victory! And since you saved us from adversity, we offer you our thanks. We are your people, O Mother of God! But, as you have that invincible power, continue to deliver us from danger that we may cry out to you: Hail, O Virgin and Bride ever-pure!

    4. 9) Finding of Christ in the Temple
      Triumphant leader, to you belongs our prize of victory! And since you saved us from adversity, we offer you our thanks. We are your people, O Mother of God! But, as you have that invincible power, continue to deliver us from danger that we may cry out to you: Hail, O Virgin and Bride ever-pure!

    5. 10) Crucifixion
    6. The noble Joseph took down from the Tree Your spotless Body and wrapped it in pure linen with spices and laid it for burial in a new tomb.

    7. 11) Resurrection
    8. Christ is risen from the dead and by His death He has trampled upon Death, and has given life to those who were in the tombs!

    9. 12) Ascension
    10. You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, and gladdened Your Disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through Your blessing, they were confirmed in their belief that You are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the World!

    11. 13) Pentecost/Descent of the Holy Spirit
    12. Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who have filled the fishermen with wisdom by sending down the Holy Spirit upon them; and who through them have caught in Your net the whole world. O Lover of Mankind, glory to you!

    13. 14) Dormition/Assumption
    14. In giving birth, you have preserved your virginity, and in falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Mother of God. You have passed to Life being the Mother of Life; through your intercession, save our souls from death.

    15. 15) Glorification of the Trinity
    16. It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, who are ever-blessed and all-blameless and the Mother of our God. More honored than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, you who without stain did bear God the Word. You are truly Theotokos; we magnify you! 


    As one can see, there are many variations.  The Rosary has a very rich tradition in the East worthy of rediscovery.

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