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Mother of God's Daily Prayer Rule

The great prayer of the Church, following the Divine Liturgy, is, of course, the Book of 150 Psalms.

So interwoven are these prayers in the great liturgical texts that St John Chrysostom did not hesitate to remark that St David, King and Prophet, was everywhere commemorated and present throughout the feasts and festivals of the Church. His psalms are “front and centre” in all the commemorations. And the Horologion or book of hourly prayers and Divine praises of the Church belongs to the spiritual life of clergy, monastics and laity alike.

The Psalter is sung liturgically once each week in our Church, and twice each week during Lent. It is the basis of personal prayer as well and it was not surprising to find individuals who knew the Psalter by heart. St. John the Ukrainian Kozak and Confessor spent his days in Turkish captivity praying the psalms which he knew by heart.

The practice soon developed, however, to develop “substitutes” for the Psalter to allow people who could not read or who were otherwise very busy to pray according to the pattern of the Church’s liturgy. Priests and monastics who were traveling, for example, could fulfill their daily obligations of prayer, when necessary, by fulfilling a private rule of repeated prayers.

One of the earliest of these “psalter-substitutes” or “little psalters” involved the repetition of the Our Father and O Virgin Theotokos prayers 150 times each.

To keep count, people tied 50 or 150 knots on a cord that they carried about with them. St. Basil the Great himself prescribed the making of prayer-ropes or “komvoschinia” with 100 knots divided every 25 with a divider bead or knot for the saying of prescribed numbers of the Jesus Prayer to replace the Divine Office and also the Psalter (one would have had to say the Jesus Prayer 6,000 times instead of the Psalter).

In the West, prayer-chains with beads were soon developed with beads organized into groups of ten, divided with a larger bead (called the “gaudies”). And the very word “bead” or “bede” came from the old English word for “prayer” (and “beg” comes from the same root).

The group of ten beads recalled the ten-stringed musical instrument of the psalter itself on which King David played when he sang his psalms.

With all the interest in the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov last year and this, a number of his prayer rules have been published, his own very strict cell-rule for praying the psalms and his unique prayer rule for laity.

Among his other prayer rules is to be found the “Rule of the Mother of God” which consists in reciting 150 “O Virgin Theotokos”es divided up into groups of ten. Each group is followed "Our Father" and by the prayer “Open the door of thy loving-kindness, O blessed Mother of God, that we who put our hope in thee may not perish. Through thee, may we be delivered from adversities, for thou art the salvation of Christian people” (which he insisted was most important to include) and with a special prayer for a particular intention. St Seraphim also kept a book in which he listed all sorts of miraculous healings of people who prayed this rule faithfully every day.

At the great Diveyevo monastery, the nuns continue to recite this prayer rule as they walk in procession around the perimeter of their monastery three times. They actually sing it out loud during important feast-days associated with the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of all Joys” that was St Seraphim’s cell-icon and on feasts of St Seraphim himself.

St. Seraphim taught that this prayer rule was revealed to an Eastern monk in the Thebaid in Africa in the 8th century.

On Mount Athos, novice monks especially are urged to practice reciting 150 "O Virgin Theotokos"es with a prostration to the ground at the end of each prayer. The same is practiced with "Our Father"s.

St. 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 50).
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.

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