Friday, July 25, 2003

Thanks for the link to this blog!
Meletao (Joseph Willcoxson)
Tolle Blogge (a 'Reformed Christian'!)

On different prayer forms
Never got into the chotki and Jesus Prayer, even though The Way of a Pilgrim made me more aware of Russian Orthodoxy as a living reality that still exists.

A son of a 1917-exile Russian Orthodox priest told me his father was the same way. Chotki are monastic — literally part of the habit when worn on the left wrist. The late Fr X never owned any.

The Rosary is wonderful and does work for me — up to a point.

It's a great prayer when you are ill, overtired or otherwise unable to concentrate on more bookish prayers. (Devotees of the Jesus Prayer say the same thing.)

Consider where the Rosary came from — it is literally a substitute for the 150 psalms of the hours/divine office cleverly and effectively devised for the illiterate. All one needs is memorization: 'Pater noster, Ave Maria, Criede/Learn the child while yt is nede' says an inscription on a medieval English baptismal font. (The chaplet — that is, the set of beads = 1/3 of this bookless psalter.)

That it parallels the older use of prayer beads in other religions — Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, to this day — speaks of its effectiveness.

It has its place.

Literate people East and West have used forms of the hours/divine office since medieval times.

(Though using them privately/at home in a breviary format seems to be a western Catholic thing - as Subdeacon Lance Weakland points out in his foreword on my hours page, the Byzantine Rite hours evolved with no thought of using them anywhere other than church.

The long lists of the same long prayers — though orthodox and often beautiful and content-rich — every day in Orthodox manuals for the laity don't work for me. Sorry.)

I can read, therefore I usually prefer that form of prayer.

The akathist, a literate prayer, works wonderfully too as a standalone or as part of the office (Little Compline in the Byzantine Rite).

Also, the hours/office is the prayer of the Church — the opus Dei, the heartbeat of the Church, just like the Liturgy/Mass. Devotional prayers, however old or popular, aren’t. (There were and are books of hours, such as mine, that aren't official but at least are connected to the office.)

To keep this from seeming snobbish, I will point out that simple memorized prayer forms have flourished alongside breviaries/books of hours for centuries, so they obviously work for many kinds of people.

Although in traditional Roman Rite practice, and according to Byzantine Rite rules in church as well, one isn't supposed to read liturgical prayers from memory, I know by heart most of the ordo of the office I use (see link for hours, above) and so often do recite them at home without the book. So I can have it both ways — the non-thinking part of my brain getting into a prayerful groove, just like the way the memorized prayers of the Rosary or the chotki work, and the thinking part taking on board the written word of God.

Your mileage may vary.

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