Monday, February 08, 2010

The Rosary in the Eastern Orthodox Church

Folks, I found this at the WesternOrthodox.com website I thought it meritorious enough to reproduce here as part of our ongoing conversation cycle on Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement:

From The Walsingham Way (Vol. II, No. I, Fall 1999), a newsletter of Western Orthodox spirituality published by the Orthodox Christian Society of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Some people have asked why the Orthodox don’t pray the Rosary as Roman Catholics and some other non-Orthodox do. Others object to Orthodox praying the Rosary since, in their view, this is not an Orthodox devotion, but peculiar to Roman Catholicism.

In hope of shedding some light on the subject, we publish the following letter of Father Alexander Gumanovsky, a spiritual son of Father Zosima, who was himself a spiritual son of St. Seraphim of Sarov. Fr. Alexander begins his letter with a quote from Fr. Zosima:

…I forgot to give you a piece of advice vital for salvation. Say the 0 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-kindness1. Whomever he spoke to about this miracle-working Rule remained grateful to him…

The elder Zosima greatly valued and loved Bishop Seraphim Zvezdinsky and always spoke of him as that saintly Bishop. Bishop Seraphim Zvezdinsky performed the Rule of the Mother of God every day, and; when he performed it he prayed for the whole world, embracing in is this Rule whole life of the Queen of Heaven.

He gave one of his spiritual children the task of copying a plan which he included his prayer to the Ever Virgin Mary. Here it is:

First decade: Let us remember the birth of the Mother of God. Let us pray for mothers, fathers, and children.

Second decade: Let us the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God. Let us pray for those who have lost their way and fallen away from the church.

Third decade: Let us remember the Annunciation of the Blessed Mother of God—let us pray for the soothing of sorrows and the consolation of those who grieve.

Fourth decade: Let us remember the meeting of the Blessed Virgin with the righteous Elizabeth. Let us pray for the reunion of the separated, for those whose dear ones or children are living away from them or missing.

Fifth decade: Let us remember the Birth of Christ. Let us pray for the rebirth of souls, for new life in Christ.

Sixth decade: Let us remember 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). Let us 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.

Seventh decade: Let us remember the flight of the Mother of God with the God-Child into Egypt. Let us pray that the Mother of God will help us avoid temptation in this life and deliver us from misfortunes.

Eighth decade: Let us remember the disappearance of the twelve-year old boy Jesus in Jerusalem and the sorrow of the Mother of God on this account. Let us pray, begging the Mother of God for the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer.

Ninth decade: Let us remember-the miracle performed in Cana of Galilee, when the Lord turned water into wine at the words of the Mother of God: They have no wine (John 2:3). Let us ask the Mother of God for help in our affairs and deliverance from need.

Tenth decade: Let us remember the Mother of God standing at the Cross of the Lord, when grief pierced through her heart like a sword. Let us pray to the Mother of God for the strengthening of our Souls and the banishment of despondency.

Eleventh decade: Let us remember the Resurrection of Christ and ask the Mother of God in prayer to resurrect our souls and give us a new courage for spiritual feats.

Twelfth decade: Let us remember the Ascension of Christ, at which the Mother of God was present. Let us pray and ask the Queen of Heaven to raise up our souls from earthly and worldly amusements and direct them to striving for higher things.

Thirteenth decade: Let us remember the Upper Room and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the Mother of God. Let us 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 51).

Fourteenth decade: Let us remember the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, and ask for a peaceful and serene end.

Fifteenth decade: Let us remember the glory of the Mother of God, with which the Lord crowned her after her removal from earth to heaven. Let us pray to the Queen of Heaven not to abandon the faithful who are on earth but to defend them from every evil, covering them with her honoring and protecting veil.

After every decade Bishop Seraphim prayed his own prayers, which he revealed to no one, so that only the Lord and the Queen of Heaven knew these prayers.

Thus, we can see that the Rosary is a completely Orthodox form of devotion to our Lady.

Those who follow the Western tradition should follow one of the standard forms, i.e. the opening consisting of the Sign of the Cross followed by the Lord’s Prayer; or O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise and the Glory be… followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation (three times). After this, either five or fifteen decades (each preceded by the appropriate mystery) are recited; and after the decades, the conclusion consisting of the Regina Coeli and the appropriate collect.

Those who follow the Eastern tradition could very easily follow the form cited above, ending with the hymn, It is truly meet to call thee blessed.

What is essential is to daily seek the intercessions of the Mother of God, so that in drawing closer to her, we may be drawn closer to her Son, our Savior, Jesus, with whom she now reigns eternally in Heaven.

1. The Full text of the prayer is: “Open unto us the door 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, fix thou art the salvation of all Christian people.”