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“Both in the Greek and in the Slavonic Monasteries it is customary, as a part of the investiture of the Little Habit and of the Great Habit, and after the Sandals have been put on, to give a Knotted Cord to the Monk or Nun...This Cord corresponds, though very remotely, to the Western Rosary, which originated at a much later date...The custom of reciting prayers upon a string with knots or beads thereon at regular intervals has come down from the early days of Christianity...It seems to have originated among the early Monks and Hermits, who used a piece of heavy cord with knots tied at intervals upon which they recited their shorter prayers...The Greeks call the Cord a Komvoschinion (a knot and a cord)...The Russian name for the cord is a Vervitsa and Chotki. 

“The modern Komvoschinion, as used by the Monks on Mount Athos, consists of 100 knots, divided into four equal parts by four large beads, with three additional knots in a pendant adorned with a small cross-shaped tassel. The Megaloschemos is expected to make daily 12 X 100 times the prostration down to the ground (metanoia), and in the evening 300 similar prostrations, accompanied with the following prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Word of the living God, through the intercessions of thine all-pure Mother and of all thy Saints, have mercy and deliver us.’ If, however, the prostrations, or metanoias, are imposed upon Monks as a penance, the accompanying prayer is:  ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.’... 

“The Knotted Cord used by Russian Monks is the old Slavonic Vervitsa, which is made with 103 knots or beads, separated as follows by means of four larger beads: The first of the larger beads is followed by 17 small beads, the second large bead by 33 small ones, the third large bead by 40 small ones, and the fourth large bead by 12 small ones; and an additional small bead is added at the end. (The smaller for the Jesus prayer, the large to the Virgin Mary)...” 

[Taken from, "Monasticism in the Orthodox Churches" by N.F. Robinson, 1964]

 

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