Thursday, January 23, 2014
St. Paisios on the Prayer Rope
St. Paisios preaching to people outside his cell on the Holy Mountain (source)
-Elder, what meaning does the prayer rope (komboschoini) have?
-The prayer rope is an inheritance, a blessing, which was left to us by the Holy Fathers. And for this alone, it has great worth. You see, when someone's grandfather leaves him a meaningless object as an inheritance, he keeps it like a talisman, how much more should we keep the prayer rope as an inheritance of the Holy Fathers!
In olden times, when there were no clocks, monks counted the time with prayer with the prayer rope, but the knots of the prayer rope were simple. Once, an ascetic was doing great struggles, many prostrations, etc. and the devil went and broke the knots of his prayer rope. The poor man then did prostrations after prostrations, because he couldn't count them, as the devil broke his prayer rope to further continue his struggle. Then, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him and taught him how to weave the knots, so that each knot might contain nine crosses. The devil afterwards, who trembles at the cross, could not break them. Thus the knots of the prayer rope have nine crosses, which symbolize the nine ranks of the Angels.
-Elder, what do the 33, 50, 100 and 300 knots mean on prayer ropes?
-Only the number 33 is symbolic, for it symbolizes the 33 years that Christ lived upon the earth. The other numbers simply help us count the prostrations that we do or how many times we say the prayer.
Some machines have a rope with a grip in its side so that if you want it to go forward, you pull the rope strongly, until it warms it up with oil. Thus, the prayer rope is the rope which we pull one, two, five, ten times to warm up with spiritual oil and to move the spiritual machine forward of unceasing prayer, which afterwards, functions on its own. However, when the heart is going forward with the prayer, we still should not remove the prayer rope, so that others might not remove it, whose hearts have not moved forward with prayer.
-Elder, when I hold my prayer rope, and say the prayer mechanically, is there a danger of vainglory [ανθρωπαρέσκειας]?
-If you use the prayer rope externally, out of vainglory, even though your hands start to peel, it does not benefit you at all. It will only bring you fatigue, and the illusion that you are supposedly pursuing noetic prayer.
-Elder, I'm not used to carrying the prayer rope.
-You should carry the prayer rope, so that you might not forget the prayer, which should work internally, within the heart. When of course you exit your cell, you should remember that the enemy is ready to fight you. Thus, imitate the good soldier, who exits the barracks always with his automatic weapon “at hand”. The prayer rope has a great power, and is the weapon of the monk, and its knots are bullets, which [when fired at the feet of the demons] make their sandals dance.
(“On Prayer”, Words VII. Amateur translation of text from here.)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!