The Orthodox Tradition of a Prayer Rope (Komboskini, Chotki) – The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is:  “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. Some will even revise this prayer to be, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me THE sinner”.

The prayer rope (komboskini, chotki) originated in the monastic world as a tool that could be used in the prayer rule of male and female monks. It had no particular design originally. It was simply a method to keep track of the number of prayers asking for the Lord’s Mercy that the spiritual elder had given to his or her spiritual child as an obedience to perform each day.  The purpose of this monastic exercise was to train the spiritual child’s mind to pray without ceasing in response to the commandment given by the Apostle Paul in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 which is further supported in the New Testament (NKJV): Matthew 9:27, Matthew 15:22, Matthew 17:15, Matthew 20:30, Matthew 20:31, Mark 10:47, Mark 10:48, Luke 16:24, Luke 17:13, Luke 18:38, Luke 18:39, Romans 9:15, Romans 11:30, Romans 11:32, 1Corinthians 7:25, Philippians 2:27, 1Peter 2:10. The New Testament writings, as a fulfillment of the Old Testament, have their foundation in the Old Testament scripture where petitioning the Lord to have mercy on a person or group of people occurs repeatedly through scripture.

The training of the mind was the important reason for the Prayer Rope and the Prayer Rope rule given to the monks. The mind was to become so conditioned through this daily spiritual exercise, that no matter what the person was doing, the body would learn to automatically and without conscious thinking, pray for the Lord’s mercy continually in waking hours when engaged in activities as well as subconsciously in sleeping hours.

The Jesus prayer and the prayer rope developed during the first 1000 years of Christianity into a practice not just done by the monastic community but also by lay people who wanted to lead a life that would bring them closer to God in the hope of salvation for their souls.  The Prayer Rope is the precursor to the modern day Rosary that the Roman Catholic Church implemented as a prayer rule for their Roman Catholic faithful after the Great Schism between the Church of the East and the Church of the West in 1054 AD.

The modern day prayer rope can be any length of knots, although the knots should be tied in a particular way that weaves 7 crosses together in each knot. The most traditional lengths are 33 knots, 50 knots, 100 knots and 300 knots. The Cross that is tied can be tied with or without a tassel. The tassel has its basis as being something to wipe away the tears of the penitent as he/she prays the Jesus Prayer or other short prayers which have been assigned to them by their spiritual elder.

Although many materials are used to tie a prayer rope in recent times – elastic rope, waxed rope,  synthetic yarns, etc., it was and still is tied of Lamb’s wool yarn by tradition to remind the penitent that Jesus is the Lamb of God and the 33 knots version represented the Lord’s time on earth.  The Prayer Rope was plain and not decorated to reflect the contrition of the person and to be humble before the Lord in their petition for mercy.  It was also black to reflect the monastic view of being dead to the secular world and for the mourning of the sinful tendencies of the person.

Lay people can either incorporate the Jesus Prayer and prayer rope rule into their daily lives, or in the more modern sense, simply wear the prayer rope on the wrist as a constant reminder to pray without ceasing.  The colors lay people often use are generally black and also the church’s ecclesiastical colors.  So Lay people will often prefer the church Feast day colors such as:  Black, White/Gold/Ivory, Purple, Green, Light Blue, and a dark shade of Red — Although, merchants are now marketing many other colors as well.

Whether a person uses the Jesus Prayer alone or with a Prayer Rope as a prayer rule or carry a prayer rope as a prayer reminder, praying to the Lord for Mercy is the spiritual food for the soul that can help the person to recognize and work at their shortcomings, thereby helping them to become a little bit better each day with the help of the Lord for the salvation of their soul.

All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.

The Calculation of the Date of Easter

Some Orthodox Christian church traditions follow the Old Calendar and some follow the New Calendar for calculations of religious feast days. The New Calendar is the calendar that we follow in our day-to-day modern secular world – it is also called the Gregorian Calendar and was introduced in the 16th Century. Most Orthodox churches that maintain the New Calendar calculations for religious Feast Days only do so up until Easter when they follow the Old Calendar calculation to determine the date.

Unique to the Easter Season, the Bible actually tells us when the Lord was Crucified and Resurrected in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The Old Calendar is the calendar that was in effect during Jesus’ time on earth, so It is for this reason that some Orthodox Christian traditions continue to follow the Old Calendar calculations to determine the date for Easter each year.  After Jesus’ time on earth, the Old Calendar calculations experience natural variations over time that ultimately render the Old Calendar slightly less accurate for calculating the date for Easter as the centuries pass by.  However, even with these natural variations, the calculations to determine the time of Easter in the Old Calendar are still more closely aligned to the biblical timeline of the Lord’s ministry on earth than if one were to calculate the date for Easter using the New Calendar.

All Orthodox Christian traditions followed the Old Calendar until 1923 when some jurisdictions converted to the New Calendar for political reasons in Greece.  This conversion of some jurisdictions  continues to be debated (sometimes harshly) to the present day. The Monasteries on Mt. Athos in Greece still follow the Old Calendar for Feast Days.   Easter, on the other hand, has biblical references which determine the calculation of that date, so both Orthodox calendar traditions follow the Old Calendar to determine the date for Easter every year as established by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea on 325 AD.

All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.

How an Orthodox Priest positions his hands to bless someone

This diagram is a convenient guide to instruct Catechumins of the Orthodox Christian Faith in the way an Eastern Orthodox Priest will bless them.  In Iconography, Jesus is often shown with his right hand in this position too.  The symbolism in Icons with Jesus and his hand in this position is that He is blessing in His Name.

priesthandblessing

 

 

 

 

All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.

How Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross

This diagram is a convenient guide to instruct Catechumins of the Orthodox Christian Faith in the way to make the sign of the Cross.

How to make the cross_2

 

All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.

Matthew 15:21-28 – the Canaanite Woman

In this Gospel reading, Jesus and His Apostles left Galilee and went to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  It is in this area where the Canaanite woman seeks out Jesus.   During Jesus’ time, Tyre and Sidon were successful Roman port cities and an area of Gentiles (non-Jewish people). This interestingly is the same area where God sent Elijah when the widow fed him (1 Kings 17:9). Elijah’s visit was to the port city of Zaraphath which was between Sidon and Tyre. Some biblical scholars write that Jesus leaving Galilee (a predominately Jewish area) to go to Tyre and Sidon (a Gentile area) is a reminder that the Promised Land extended as far north as Sidon where the people were not Israelites but it was still considered part of Israel’s inheritance according to the Old Testament account in 1 Kings 17:9.

In Matthew’s Gospel (15:21-28), he refers to the woman that approached Jesus as a Canaanite woman. Historically, many biblical historians agree that Matthew’s Gospel was primarily read by Jewish people and referring to the woman as a Canaanite woman, would be very interesting to them because in so doing, he singles her out as person who was descended from ancient enemies of the Israelites and who now comes to the Jewish Messiah in faith for healing of her daughter. Jesus had previously healed Gentiles in the territory of the Israelites, but this would be the first time He healed a Gentile in Gentile territory and the Jewish people would have also found that of interest because it would be further evidence of the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies in the Book Isaiah, particularly Isaiah 11:10.

A similar story is also told in Mark 7:24-30 but with a few differences. Mark refers to this woman as a Greek (meaning non-Jewish), of Syro-Phoenician descent – meaning, a Gentile. Biblical scholars believe that Mark had primarily Gentile readers who were learning about Christ’s Ministry and the Kingdom of God, so he refers to this woman in a way that would appeal to other Gentiles who were beginning to embrace the Christian faith by calling her a Greek of Syro-Phoenician descent.

In Matthew’s Gospel, he writes that the Canaanite woman calls Jesus, “Son of David” where in Mark’s narrative she does not address Jesus in this manner; she simply falls at His feet. The use of the title, “Son of David” in Matthew’s narrative provides Matthew’s Jewish readers with the knowledge that she had been learning about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. She had come to believe that he was the “Son of David” and had faith in Him. Whereas in Mark’s narrative, the woman doesn’t use the title, but she falls at His Feet – which is also a gesture of faith that would appeal to Mark’s Gentile readers.

Another difference between the two Gospels is that in Matthew, he includes the statement “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This statement is omitted in Mark’s narrative. Again, biblical scholars believe the wording is carefully chosen to enlighten the community each Apostle is serving.

Jesus’ aphorism regarding children, dogs and crumbs prompts the woman to respond to Jesus in faith. She, in all humility, fully accepts that she has no right to ask for any mercy of Him but simply asks for help.  The faith she expressed in her petition for help to heal her daughter was honored by Him.

Theologians comment that Christ’s acceptance of this woman foreshadows that the Gentiles would become part of the Christian Church after Pentecost – children of God – who would be invited to eat the bread of eternal life at the Lord’s table.

References: The New Testament, Vol 1, 2, 4, Paul Tarazi; The Gospel of Matthew, Torah for the Church, Lawrence Farley; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Gaebelein; Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1b, Matthew 14-28, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.; NKJV
All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.

Matthew 25:14-30 – The Parable of the Talents

The parable of the Talents is not only given in Matthew 25:14-30 but also Luke 19:11-27 in a slightly different way.   In Matthew a talent was given and in Luke a Mina was given. In the ancient world, a talent (Matthew 25:14-30) was not only the ability to perform some function or task in a valued way, it was also a unit of value equal to the value of a talent of gold or silver. In Luke 19:11-27 a mina was the amount given. In ancient Greece, a mina originally equaled 70 drachma and later was increased to 100 drachma.

This parable speaks about the abilities and gifts that have been bestowed on a person. The amount that each person receives is given according to that person’s individual ability (Romans 12:4-7). This parable is one of three parables given by Matthew consecutively in his Gospel.   The first parable is in Matthew 24:45-51 (Mark 13:33-37) and speaks of the Faithful and Unfaithful servant which Matthew specifically relates to church leaders by saying that the Master made a servant ruler over His Household to give them food at the appointed time and speaks of the punishment of not adhering to the Master’s requests as being consigned to a place where “men will weep and gnash their teeth”.

The next parable immediately told by Jesus is that of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). This parable not only addresses the leaders of the household (church), it also addresses the entire membership (congregation). All are accountable to the Lord. The good virgins are said to be “wise” (Matthew 25:2, 4, 8, 9) just as the faithful servant in Matthew 24:45, and the other virgins are said to be “foolish” (Matthew 25:2, 3, 8) like the hypocrite leaders in Matthew 23:17. The basis of the virgins judgement is their possession of sufficient oil (Matthew 25:3, 4, 8). Oil is scripturally noted as a healing agent for the sick (Mark 6:13) and the Holy Fathers of the church agree that the use of this parable is in itself, an expression of apostolic preaching. Entirely eschatological in it’s message, The wise virgins were ready to receive the Lord when He arrived.

The parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) immediately follows the previous two. Most theologians agree that through this progression of parables, Matthew clearly teaches that not only are the prior leaders and membership required to heed the Master, but also any succeeding leadership and membership of the church are required to heed the Master as well thereby focusing his message not only on the ancient Church at that time but also on the rising Gentile leadership in the church and, by extension, to the present day church of our time.

St. John Chrysostom in his Homily of the Gospel of Matthew (78.3) writes, “Let us listen carefully then to these words.  As we have opportunity, let us work to cooperate with our salvation.  Let us get oil for our lamps.  Let us labor to add to our talent…..”

References: The New Testament, Vol 1, 2, 4, Paul Tarazi; The Gospel of Matthew, Torah for the Church, Lawrence Farley; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Gaebelein; Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1b, Matthew 14-28, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.; KJV;
All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.

Luke 18:35-43: The Healing of the Blind Man.

Similar scriptural stories about healing a blind man are also told in Mark 10:46-52 and Matthew 20:30 and in all three accounts, these readings precede Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21-1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-44; and, John 12:12-19).

Through the Old Testament teachings of the Prophet Isaiah (IS 29:18; 35:4,5), who lived approximately 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Israelites were taught for generations that the Messiah could be identified by having the ability to perform miracles one of which was the restoration of the sight of the blind.  The blind man in this Gospel reading of Luke notably called Jesus Christ, “the Son of David”. The term “the Son of David” had always been used as another name for the Messiah by the Israelites. Therefore, when the blind man called Jesus Christ, “the Son of David”, he inadvertently identified himself as a person that was raised according to the faith of the Israelites because of his use of this title for Jesus. So, the blind man in Luke’s story was not someone who had never heard of the teachings about the Messiah like the “Man born blind” in Gospel reading of John 9:1-12. This blind man was an Israelite that had been taught to always be watchful (despite his physical blindness) for when the Messiah would come and that the Messiah could be identified through the miracles that would be performed as prophesied by Isaiah. Some theologians also identify the blind man as those future generations who would come to believe in the Lord by only hearing rather than seeing.

There are some discrepancies between the Gospel of Luke 18:35-43; Mark 10:46-52 and Matthew 20:30. In Matthew’s account, there are two blind men. In Luke’s and Mark’s writings, there is only one blind man and the Gospel of Mark actually names the blind man as Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus where the other two accounts do not. Some theologians and biblical historians try to explain Matthew’s use of two blind men by saying that each blind man represents a particular sect at the time, Pharisee and Sadducee; but, since the actual Gospel reading of Matthew does not distinguish between the two men, other biblical scholars dismiss this explanation.

Another difference between the three Gospel readings is the location. Jericho, at that time in history, was associated with sin (Luke 10:30; 19:1) and therefore, some Biblical scholars say that Jericho symbolizes fallen humanity in these Gospel readings.  In Matthew and Mark, Jesus and the multitude are traveling out of Jericho when they meet the blind man (men). In Luke they are entering Jericho when they meet the blind man. Some scholars say that the slight discrepancy in the writings for the timing of the event in Jericho could possibly be attributed to the fact that the  Jericho of the Old Testament was in a slightly different location than it was in the New Testament, which could account for the differences in the translations of the texts into English, therefore, the difference in the timing of the event is of no consequence.

Most theologians say the differences between the three Gospel readings are relatively insignificant and irrelevant when compared to the central message each Gospel reading ultimately conveys. The important themes which are universal between the three Gospel readings are:

1. The blind person was persistent is calling out to the Lord despite the multitude trying to silence them.
2. The Lord stopped! He asked the blind person to come to Him. He asked the blind what they wanted from Him.
3. The Blind received immediate sight and followed Him.

Some Theologians agree that the “multitude of people” who continually kept trying to silence the blind person in these Gospel readings represent those who would try to eliminate the Christian faith and persecute the Christian Church in the future.  Some also say that the continued outcry of the blind person over the efforts of those who would try to silence them represents that the Christian faith will continually triumph over all adversity.

St. John Chrysostom writes in one of his Homilies that the Lord stopped and asked the blind person what they specifically wanted Him to do for them in all three accounts. As such, Chrysostom explains that God’s Grace calls for responsiveness on our part. God does not force our will nor does He assume a response from us.

St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Ephrem the Syrian all record in their commentaries that the blind received immediate sight upon asking the Lord and they followed the Lord to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.   The Holy Fathers explained in their commentaries that by God’s Grace, the Lord opens the eyes of those who persistently follow Him for the salvation of their souls.  We are promised this by Jesus Himself as reported in John 8:12, “…Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

References:  Paul Nadim Tarazi, The New Testament, Matthew and the Canon, Vol 4, OCABS Press, St. Paul, Minnesota 55112, 2009; Lawrence R. Farley, The Gospel of Matthew, Torah for the Church, Conciliar Press, Ben Lomond, CA.; Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1b Matthew, II Mark, III Luke; Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament X Isaiah.

All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit.