Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Komvoschinion

The Prayer Rope or Komvoschinion in Greek is different from the Rosary. The Prayer Rope’s purpose is to help establish a rhythm when praying the Jesus Prayer. Today, outside Russian monasteries, there is not necessarily any meaning associated with the number of knots as the Jesus Prayer is to be prayed continuously.

According to Wikipedia:

A prayer rope is a loop made up of knots, usually made of wool, that is used by Eastern Orthodox Christians to count the number of times they have prayed the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Historically it typically had 100 knots, although prayer ropes with 50 or 33 knots can also be found in use today. There is typically a knotted cross at one end, and a few beads at certain intervals between the knots.

Its invention is attributed to Saint Pachomius in the fourth century as an aid for illiterate monks to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations. Monks were often expected to carry a prayer rope almost constantly, to remind them to pray constantly in accordance with Saint Paul's injunction in I Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."

In some Russian Orthodox service books, certain liturgies can be replaced at need by praying the Jesus Prayer a specified number of times, anywhere from 300 to 1,500 times depending on the service being replaced. In this way prayers can still be said even if the service books are unavailable for some reason. The use of a prayer rope is a very practical tool in such cases, simply for keeping count of the prayers said.

For more on the Russian use of the Prayer Rope see

It can also symbolize the ladder seen by Jacob in his dream, reminding the user of the spiritual ladder of ascent into heaven.

The knotting of prayer ropes is a common monastic activity, partly because Orthodox monastics make use of them as a primary “weapon” in the spiritual warfare.

It is normally made of wool to remind us of Christ our Shepard.


Blogger xofezura said...

See, you use the prayer rope so that illiterate people can substitute rote prayer for the Divine Office. Also, for literate types when they are unable to for some reason.

So, Rosary would accomplish same purpose.

So, really, inside of a monastery a prayer rope and a Rosary are functionally similar. Count off X number of prayers.

What are they used for outside of a monastery, if not for counting prayers?

11:39 AM  
Blogger xofezura said...

I think it's kind of funny that the article emphasizes that while prayer ropes are "remotely" related to Rosaries, that the "Rosary" came at a much later date.

In terms of preserving the patristic truth, isn't it so that the monks of the 4th century would just put piles of rocks in their laps and use those for counting?

I've read "Sayings of the Desert Fathers" a couple of times and don't recall any mention of a prayer rope. It's always pile of rocks.

It sounds like (gasp!) the prayer rope is an innovation (though a very cool one).

11:46 AM  
Blogger xofezura said...

I see that the innovation is "attributed to" St. Pachomius. I wonder when it became widespread? Because they don't seem to have had them at Scetis.

12:02 PM  
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