In this post, my dear reader, you will find sermon seven on the Divine Liturgy, by St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky). Translating is very instructive. A number of times I’ve encountered references to certain things or practices that I am unfamiliar with. This provides the opportunity for me to study out that aspect a little more. In this particular sermon, St. Seraphim references at its end “the Theotokos Prayer Rule.” Although he does provide a brief explanation of its practice, I was intrigued and decided to investigate this particular prayer rule a little more.
I was able to find the rule, plus its expanded practice as outlined by St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky), in Russian. The original prayer rule is attributed to St. Seraphim of Sarov. In this post, I have also translated the “The Theotokos Prayer Rule.” Here is the link to the original Russian source online. A slightly more elaborate form may be found (in Russian) at the Russian Orthodox site Azbuka.ru
Since the Rule is mentioned by St. Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) in his sermon and I was able to find a number of Orthodox sources for it, mostly in Russian (there is a small book for sale in English, although I could not discern who the author is beyond his name), it does indeed seem to be an authentic prayer rule that a believer could choose to utilize.
Below the reader will find sermon seven on the Div. Liturgy and following it “the Theotokos Prayer Rule.”
The priest, before beginning the Divine Liturgy, vests and washes his hands while praying these words from Psalm 25, “I will wash my hands in innocency.” What does this mean? If understood in a literal manner, then the priest together with everyone present, most of all those preparing to receive holy communion, must be clean as clear crystal – so pure and innocent that their deeds are purified by this innocence, otherwise, how could one approach the offered Sacrifice? But is this even possible? Who of us is able to say of himself that he is this pure? Who is free of sin? Who is so pure of thought that he has the boldness to read these words? If they are understood in a literal manner, then the priest first of all people – and after him everyone else – must run out of the church! Yet, the Holy Church knows our weaknesses, and thus she comforts us with this explanation: the words “I wash my hands in innocency” speak of the purity of the Heavenly Queen. The bowl and instruments for washing represent the Mother of God, in whose purity the priest, the communicants, and everyone present are purified. Just one drop from the Heavenly Queen is all that is needed to wash clean our deeds. Therefore, before the Liturgy, it is good to pray to the Mother of God that she would grant us even the littlest drop of her purity. On the evening before receiving the Holy Mysteries, it is a profitable practice to fulfill the rule of praying “Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice …” one hundred and fifty times (the Theotokos Rule).
The Theotokos Prayer Rule
Our venerable father Seraphim of Sarov gave his blessing to go around the holy groove/ditch (kanvaka) at the Diveyevo monastery while reading the prayer “Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice …” 150 times. Batushka [Seraphim] said: “Whoever walks this Kanavka with prayer, and reads one hundred and fifty prayers to the Mother of God, for such a person everything is here: Athos, and Jerusalem, and Kiev!”
“O Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice, 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 Savior of our souls.” (Read 150 times)
After each decade [set of ten prayers], one should read the “Our Father” and “The Door of Compassion” once.
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
The door of compassion open unto us, O blessed Theotokos, for, hoping in thee may we not perish; through thee may we be delivered from adversities, for thou art the salvation of the Christian race.
Additional prayers may be prayed after each decade. This rule was fulfilled by the Hieromartyr Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) and in doing so he prayed for the whole world while embracing the entire life of the Heavenly Queen:
The first decade:
We remember the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here we offer prays for mothers, fathers and children.
“O Most Holy Lady Theotokos, save and protect thy servants (names of parents and relatives), and to the departed grant rest with the saints in thine eternal glory.”
The second decade:
We remember the Entry into the Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here we pray for those who have gone astray and fallen away from the Church.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, save and protect and reunite (or join) to the Holy Orthodox Church thy lost and fallen away servants (names).”
The third decade:
We remember the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos. Here we pray for the soothing of sorrows and consolation of those who mourn.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, soothe our sorrows and send consolation to thy servants (names) who are grieving or sick.”
The fourth decade:
We remember the Meeting of the Most Holy Theotokos with Righteous Elizabeth. Here we pray for the reunion of those who have been estranged and those missing or separated from relatives or children.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, unite Thy servants (names) who have been separated.”
The fifth decade:
We remember the Nativity of Christ and we pray for the rebirth of souls and for the new life that is in Christ.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, grant me, who was baptized into Christ, to put on Christ.”
The sixth decade:
We remember the Meeting of the Lord and the word prophesied by St. Symeon: “And a sword will pierce thy soul.” Here we pray that the Mother of God would meet our soul at the hour of death and that we would be worthy, with our last breath, to partake of the Holy Mysteries and that She would lead the soul through the terrible ordeals [toll-houses].
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, grant me with my last breath to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ and do thou thyself lead my soul through the terrible ordeals [of the toll-houses].”
The seventh decade:
We remember the flight of the Mother of God with the Divine Infant to Egypt. Here we pray that the Heavenly Queen would help us to avoid temptations in this life and save us from misfortunes.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, let me not be led into temptation in this life and deliver me from all misfortunes.”
The eighth decade:
We remember how the twelve-year-old Jesus was seemingly lost during a trip to Jerusalem and how the Mother of God grieved over this. Here we pray, asking the Mother of God for the constant praying of the Jesus Prayer.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, Most-Pure Virgin Mary, grant me to pray unceasingly the Jesus Prayer.”
The ninth decade:
We remember the miracle in Cana of Galilee when the Lord turned water into wine according to the word of the Mother of God: “They have no wine.” Here we ask the Mother of God for help in our undertakings and for deliverance from need.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, help me in every enterprise and deliver me from all needs and sorrows.”
The tenth decade:
We remember how the Mother of God stood at the Cross of the Lord and sorrow, like a sword, pierced Her soul. Here we pray to the Most-Pure One for the strengthening of our spiritual fortitude and for the driving away of despondency.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, Blessed Virgin Mary, strengthen my spiritual fortitude and drive despondency far from me.”
The eleventh decade:
We remember the Resurrection of Christ and prayerfully ask the Mother of God to resurrect our soul and give new vigor to our spiritual contest [podvig].
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, resurrect my soul and grant me constant readiness for spiritual contest [podvig].”
The twelfth decade:
We remember the Ascension of Christ, at which the Mother of God was present. Here we pray and ask the Heavenly Queen to raise the soul above earthly and vain amusements and direct it towards striving for heavenly things.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, deliver me from vain thoughts and grant me a mind and a heart that strives for the salvation of the soul.”
The thirteenth decade:
We remember the upper chamber at Zion and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Mother of God while praying: “Create a pure heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, send down into my heart and strengthen within it the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Fourteenth decade We
We remember the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and ask for a peaceful and serene death.
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, grant me a peaceful and serene ending to my life.”
The fifteenth decade:
We remember the glory of the Mother of God with which She is crowned by the Lord after She was taken from earth to Heaven, and we pray the Heavenly Queen not to forsake the faithful who are on earth, but to protect them from all evil, covering them with Her Most-Honorable Omophor [Protection].
“O, Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, save me from all evil and cover me with Thy Most-Honorable Omophor [Protection].”