12 August 2013

My Armenian Orthodox Rosary

Here's my coral rosary with 24 beads and a cross
Today as I was driving into work in heavy traffic, I instinctually grabbed for the beads that are hanging in my car.  Not just ordinary beads, mind you, but MY Armenian Orthodox Rosary.  First of all, let me explain.  I'm calling it MY  Armenian orthodox rosary because I don't know if the Armenian church has an official rosary.  I've checked online, and yes, Armenian Catholics do use them, but I found only two other references to Armenian rosaries.  One was a red, blue, orange and eye bead rosary that was for sale (seriously), and the other was on a site called the Byzantine Forum where someone wrote in asking about an Armenian Orthodox rosary, and the response came in that yes, there was such a thing and it has 100 beads but laity can use a 33 bead rosary.  That's news to me.  I've been brought up in the Armenian church and I've never seen actual rosaries being used.  As I was writing this, I was listening to this week's episode of the Next Step and it struck me as funny when I heard father Vazken mention rosaries as well.  But not in this context.

Most days, I take the bus to work in the mornings, and often times, I see riders with their rosaries, fingering them during their morning commute.  I like that.  I like the discipline of praying the catholoc rosary, though I am not a catholic.  But I have found myself wishing that our Armenian Orthodox faith had something like a rosary, because I find comfort in reciting prayer in a "formula" fashion.  I find that it's a way for me to quiet my thoughts and to help me focus.  And I suppose I like the ritual aspect of it as well.  The fact that praying a rosary is a "set" prayer appeals to me.

Several years ago, during my lenten journey, I started focusing  on the 24 prayers of St. Nerses Shnorhali.  The Havodov Khosdovanemk or I confess with faith  These 24 prayers are said in our church during our lenten Huskoom service. There is one prayer for each hour of the day, but during our evening service, we say them in succession.  My grandmothers are my heroes.  When the going has gotten tough for me, i often think about them and all they went through, and it gives me strength.   Both of them were genocide survivors.  And both were complete opposites of one another.  But both were strong women of faith.  My grandmothers knew these 24 prayers by heart.  And I imagine that reciting these prayers gave them comfort in the darkest time in their lives.  I decided, about 6 years ago, to memorize these prayers, but to memorize them in the language which I was most familiar with...English.

I had received a copy of these prayers from church and tucked them in my purse.  Then on one busride, as I watched the woman across the aisle from me praying her rosary, I decided that I was going to learn my prayers as well.  So I started with the first.  "I confess with faith and adore you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Uncreated and immortal essence, creator of angels, of humans and all that exists.  Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me a manifold sinner."  That busride was when i decided to learn the first of the 24 prayers. I would read a sentence, close my eyes, think about the sentence, and try to repeat it in my head.  I'd do something else and then come back to it, and try to remember what I had learned.  I'd check myself against the paper in my hand.  If I had the sentence right...I'd learn the second sentence...and then repeat it, but only after I had repeated the first sentence before it.  Each bus ride I'd add another 2 or 3 sentences, always reinforcing what I had learned prior.  Each week, I was learning about 2 prayers and finally, I had them all memorized.  It took months, but it made my busride meaningful, and my prayer life was increasing.  As I learned the prayers, I thought about them.  Each one of them ended with "Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me a manifold sinner."  Okay, what was a manifold sinner?  When I was in 12th grade, I took auto shop for a year and rebuilt the engine of my first car....but I that is a whole different Oprah...but in my head a manifold was an exhaust manifold.  I didn't like that....so i searched other translations...and found one that substituted the word "great"  Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me a great sinner.

Then the word "creature" was kind of bugging me.  I kept thinking of the creature from the black lagoon.  But creature means "anything that is created".  So I ended each prayer with, "have mercy upon all your creation and upon me a great sinner."  And that was a better fit.  It just made more sense to me.

So this became my busride prayer.  I would start when I first borded the bus, and finish with the 24th prayer by the time we were on the freeway heading toward Eagle Rock, about ten miles away.  And I started seeing how having a physical rosary to hold might help to keep track of which prayer I was on if I got distracted (which is easy to do on the bus).  So made myself a rosary.  I used a piece of leather cord, and adding a cross to the center, I added 12, equidistant knots in the leather on each side making a knot for each prayer.  That's it.  It's very simple and unpretentious.  I also made one with some coral beads that I had...and I keep that one in my car.  I use those sometimes when I'm driving.

These prayers have brought me a lot of comfort.  They are in my mind when I walk around downtown L.A.; if I'm feeling troubled; if I'm stuck in traffic; when I'm having trouble falling asleep and I can't clear my mind, or when I'm feeling overwhelmed with too much to do.

Sometimes I will choose one to reflect on.  Othertimes, it's a way for me push myself to thinking.  I'll start with the last one first and go backward in order.  Since each of the prayers are individual, each is a complete prayer by itself.  Prayers 3-24 have a different name for Christ starting each prayer.  Sometimes I"ll only pray the names:  Heavenly Father, Son of God, Spirit of God, Uncreated Essence, Beholder of all, Searcher of Secrets, All provident Lord, Living fire, Jesus wisdom of the father, Lord, Heavenly King, Bestower of Mercy . Benificent Lord, and so on.

And I definitely have my favorites.  I think most of us have recited the Bahaban Amenaynee or O Christ Guardian of all.  And if you're active in Armenian Orthodcox church life, you know the O Jesus, Wisdom of the father, prayer because that's usually the prayer said before meetings when we ask God to grant us wisdom that we may think, speak, and do that who's is good in His sight.  I think the most amazing of these prayers is the 22nd, which asks God to, "Forgive all my enemies, and those who hate me, the trespasses they have committed against me.  Turn them from the malice they bear toward me that they may be worth of your mercy."  Mind blowingly cool, right?   Think about it.  Not only am I asking forgiveness for my enemies and those that hate me, but I'm asking for forgiveness for them, why?  So that they can know God's  mercy.  Ultimate forgiveness.  Not forgiving for my sake, but so they can share in the beautiful gift of God's mercy.  Repaying your enemy with something so beautiful and precious that you want to share with even someone who has done you wrong.

Another favorite of mine is this one "Beneficient Lord, commit me to a good angel that I may deliver up my spirit in peace and convey it undisturbed by the malice of evil spirtis under the heavens."  I just think that's so beautiful....when the time comes to pass, that a good angel would deliver us up....protect us and make sure we make that safe transition.  I think there's something in each one of these prayers that is so beautiful and unique.

So I know that these prayers are typically recited during lent, but I think once you know them,you'll make them a part of your everyday life.  That lenten period, years ago when I decided to make learning these prayers part of my lenten journey was an invalable gift.

I will include these prayers on my website at www.pomegranateandeye.com  I hope that you'll check it out and make them your own.

Do you have another prayer or series of prayers that  speak personally to you?  Will you share them with me?  Or which one of the 24 is your favorite?  dont br shy. Please leave your comments.  I'd love to hear from you!

Well guess what? I am officially on vacation.  I will try to blog of our travels as we head up the Oregon coast!  Prayers for good weather please!!!  Hope you all have a beautiful and blessed week.

Here's the link to the 24 prayers of St. Nerses Shorhali - The I Confess with Faith:
http://www.armenianorthodoxy.org/I_confess_with_Faith.pdf

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Here I am last year..this was around Mile 37!!!  I could hear the crowds cheering at the finish line!


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All the money we collect goes to the same great cause and supports our team.  Thank you so much for all your prayers and wonderful support!!

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1 comment:

Astgik said...

Hi Dear, yes there was and still is a very old Armenian rosary(repeating prayer on beads, dedicated to our Lord Jesus, it is 100 times Der Vogormia(Der/of Ter means Lord,/ Vogormia means forgive us and give us favors), (not only forgive, it is ներիր, excuse me: but forgive and give new graces ողորմիա). this prayer cleans the mind and soul, also body from sins, faults, mistakes, brings in direct contact with Him, helps you to correct your mind, become kind, because lord hears every prayer, makes you realize how kind our lord Jesus is.how little we are and how big he is. may his right hand be always on our heads and His peace with us.that we be comforted,also there are a lot of Holy Mary prayers, very beautiful and prayer for every occasion, so ask and it will be given to you...good luck, from my Armenian orthodox priest i can pray rosary, if needed i pray, sometimes well, but i have so many excellent old Armenian Orthodox prayers, that it is a pity, when i do not pray them, so God Bless us, be happy and don't worry. god loves when we talk with Him, pray and ask, though he knows everything, he just wants us to be perfect children, grow in Him.much love.