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How to pray the Rosary

Modified for Byzantine Rite Use


What you are listening to: ‘Богородице Дево, радуйся’, the Hail Mary in Slavonic (liturgical Russian), by Father Deacon Z. Trubachyov



The RosaryNote: This is not urging Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians to ‘latinize’ (adopt customs from another Church when they didn’t use them before). However, the Rosary remains a part of us who have come from a tradition where it is common: a veritable school of prayer. For those of us, then, here is a version of this practice nicely adapted to the Byzantine tradition, based on a version devised by Ukrainian Catholic priests of the Basilian Order in the 1950s.

In the best Eastern tradition it’s a fine ‘fallback’ to make up for a missed part of the Hours when you’re tired or ill.

Some background: Besides the obvious parallel of the Rosary to the prayer beads used by Orthodox monks and nuns, there were Russian adaptations of the Rosary in the 1700s and 1800s. St Seraphim of Sarov is said to have had one. The Russian ‘Rule of the Mother of God’ consists of praying 150 ‘Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God’ prayers (Hail Marys) a day. Some of the mysteries here are the same as the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church (Annunciation, Nativity, Ascension, Dormition) while others, especially the Sorrowful Mysteries, have a more Latin emphasis.


You might want to compare this Rosary to the Rule of the Mother of God of St Seraphim (Zvezdinsky), an Orthodox bishop killed by the Soviets in 1937.


About the Rosary in general: The Rosary is a practical substitute for the Divine Office/Hours, a sort of layman’s breviary well suited for those who cannot read as was true of many in the Middle Ages. The 150 Hail Marys mimic the 150 psalms. St Dominic is said to have introduced it to the Roman Catholic Church.


The Eastern Orthodox have an equivalent system of Jesus Prayers and prostrations one may use at home that corresponds to the Hours prayed in church.


The Revd S.C. Hughson, Order of the Holy Cross (Anglican), wrote in 1918:

‘Almost any encyclopædia will inform the reader that the use of beads in prayer is far older than Christianity itself and belongs to almost every race which has any highly developed system of prayer.

‘It will be a surprise to many, no doubt, to know that our common English word bead is derived from the Saxon word bid, to pray, the derivation arising from the fact that our ancestors made common use of perforated pebbles, or beads, upon which to count their prayers. It will be news even to most Catholics to learn that instead of their Rosaries being spoken of as beads because of a resemblance to the common ornament of the name, the ornament takes its name from the Rosary.’


= Make the sign of the cross.


Start at the crucifix:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life, come dwell within us, cleanse us from all our sins and save our souls, O gracious Lord.


From Easter until Ascension leave out Glory to Thee and Heavenly King and instead say three times Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. From Ascension until Pentecost, simply make the sign of the cross — In the Name of the Father — before continuing as usual with:


Holy God, holy Mighty, holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (Three times)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Most holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit us and heal our infirmities for Thy Name’s sake. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


Then at the first large bead on the pendant:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.


Lord, have mercy. (12 times)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O come, let us worship God our King.
O come, let us worship and bow down before Christ, our King and our God.
O come, let us worship and bow down before Christ Himself, our King and our God.



Then you may say Psalm 50 (51), Have mercy upon me, O God — or another appropriate psalm — and the Nicene Creed, I believe in one God, the Father almighty.


Then at the first small bead on the pendant:

Glory to the Father, who hast made us, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Saviour of our souls.


Then at the second small bead on the pendant:

Glory to the Son, who hast redeemed us, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God...


Then at the third small bead on the pendant:

Glory to the Holy Spirit, who hast enlightened us, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God...

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


The decades or mysteries are as in the Latin (Dominican) Rosary, with an Our Father, 10 ‘Rejoice O Virgin Mother of God’ (Hail Mary) prayers and the ‘Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit’. After each decade one may say the Fátima prayer: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.


The mysteries are:

JOYFUL: Annunciation, Visitation of Our Lady to St Elisabeth, Nativity of Christ, Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple.

SORROWFUL: Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Jesus Carries the Cross, Crucifixion.

GLORIOUS: Resurrection, Ascension, Descent of the Holy Spirit, Dormition/Assumption and Crowning of Our Lady in Glory in Heaven.

Traditionally you pray the Joyful Mysteries on Mondays and Thursdays, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.


In 2002 the Pope added another set of mysteries that may be prayed on Thursdays, changing Saturday’s set to another round of the Joyful ones.

LUMINOUS: Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Theophany, Богоявление), the Wedding at Cana, Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom, the Transfiguration (Преображение) and the Institution of the Eucharist.


Closing Prayer

JOYFUL MYSTERIES: It is truly proper to glorify thee, who hast borne God, the ever-blessed and immaculate and the Mother of our God! More honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim art thou, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word. Thee, truly the Mother of God, we magnify!

SORROWFUL MYSTERIES: We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God. Despise not our prayers in our necessities but deliver us from all danger, O glorious and ever-blessed Virgin.

Most holy Mother of God, save us. (Three times with bows)

GLORIOUS MYSTERIES: To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Mother of God: but as one with invincible might, from all dangers deliver us that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!


This last prayer is from the Akathist to the Mother of God, an important Marian devotion in the Orthodox Church.


Link: A Scriptural Rosary by Catherine Fournier


Recommended reading: We Fly to Thy Patronage, O Holy Mother of God by Aid to the Church in Need.
This has quotations from the Byzantine Rite for each traditional mystery.


The 15 promises of Mary to Christians who recite the Rosary
Given to St Dominic and Blessed Alan

This is devotion, not dogma, but very nice.

Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.

I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.

The rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.

It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the rosary, shall not perish.

Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.

The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.

All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

All who recite the rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.

Devotion of my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Saying the Rosary good for soul — and heart
By Cameron Simpson

SAYING the rosary is good for the heart as well as the soul. According to research by Italian scientists, reciting the rosary has a similar effect to the Eastern practice of yoga.

Espoused by celebrities such as Madonna and Geri Halliwell, the practice of yoga slows breathing and induces a favourable effect on the heart’s rhythm.

Luciano Bernardi, associate professor of internal medicine at Pavia University, recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, recitation of the rosary, yoga mantras, and six minutes of controlled breathing.

Breathing was markedly more regular during the rosary and the mantra and was slowed to about six breaths a minute. The results mean yoga enhances ‘aspects’ of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, he said.

The benefits of breathing exercises in yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm, Professor Bernardi says in this week’s British Medical Journal.

Similarly, the rosary may have partly evolved because it synchronised with the body’s natural heart rhythms, and thus gave a feeling of well-being, and perhaps an increased responsiveness to the religious message, he said.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland was not surprised by the findings of the therapeutic benefits of saying the rosary. He said: ‘It’s good to know that spiritual health and physical health are linked. This proves what people thought long ago — that a healthy mind is linked to a healthy body.’

Prof Bernardi also notes the historic and cultural links between yoga mantras and Catholic chants. He said: ‘It’s what the Church has been offering for centuries. ‘Saying these prayers can lead to a calming and enhanced feeling of well-being.’

The Herald, Friday, 21st December 2001

More on the Rosary
By Dr Alex Roman

St Dmitri of Rostov, a Russian Orthodox, said the Rosary.

He also practised the Western devotion of saying a ‘Hail Mary’ at the start of every hour, including throughout the night — what a hardy individual.

He also venerated the Immaculate Conception of our Lady, for which he was called up on the carpet by the Synod in St Petersburg. (A Conservative Site for Peace’s webmaster notes: I’ve read somewhere the Russian Old Believers did too. Read Q&A for more on the Immaculate Conception, which Orthodoxy never has dogmatized about, positive or negative. The Byzantine Rite used by the Orthodox calls Mary ‘immaculate’ — пренепорочная.)

He also wrote movingly about the ‘Wounded Heart’ of our Lord Jesus Christ, so much so that a priest I knew who didn’t like the Orthodox exclaimed, ‘That Orthodox person must really BE a saint to write so wonderfully!!’

The Orthodox Church even believes that the Rosary was first revealed to an Eastern monk in the 8th century where our Lady asked the people to say it daily and from the East it spread throughout the world. (This page’s author notes: I’ve never heard this before. Most authorities believe St Dominic introduced the Rosary in its commonly known form to the Roman Catholic Church around 1200.)

To this day, in Russian and Greek monasteries, monks and nuns say up to 150 Hail Marys with prostrations at the end.

The Old Believers of Russia always end their ‘Hail Mary’ (which is also the version used by the Ukrainian Catholic Church) in this way: ‘For Thou hast given birth to Christ the Saviour, the Redeemer of our souls’ or ‘Бo Tы пoрoдилa Христa Спaсa, Избaвитeля душъ нaшихъ.’

One brings one’s fingers to one’s head for ‘Христа’, then down to the belly for ‘Спaса’, then to the right shoulder for ‘Избaвитeля’, the left for ‘душъ’ and then one bows for ‘нaшихъ’.

Believe it or not...

The Byzantine Forum, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2002

Did you know... that the Western form of the Hail Mary wasn’t completed until St Pius V had it printed in the Breviary in 1568? Before that, the West used a shorter form much like the Byzantine Rite.

Since Sept. 18, 2000