If you have friends or family who belong to one of the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, you may have noticed that they often carry something that looks an awful lot like a rosary, but doesn’t seem to have the right number of beads.
This “rosary” may have 33, 50, or 100 beads or more. Sometimes they are separated into groups; sometimes they are all strung together. The ends of the “rosary” are usually tied together with a cross or crucifix.
These beads are not, in fact, rosary beads, but chotki, or “Jesus beads.” Upon each bead is prayed the beautiful Jesus prayer, beloved in the Eastern Church:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The idea behind the chotki is the continual remembrance and invocation of the name of Jesus. With this precious Name continually on our lips and in our hearts, we implore Jesus to remain with us and abide in us, and fortify us against the encroachment of sin and ill words and thoughts.
As St. John Chrysostom said about this prayer:
“The Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, descending into the depths of the heart, will subdue the serpent holding sway over the pastures of the heart, and will save our soul and bring it to life.”
The Jesus prayer is meant to be prayed continually. Some people pray their chotki strands many, many times a day. It’s a prayer that has no definite endpoint because it’s a prayer that’s never finished.
Of course, you don’t have to be Eastern Catholic to participate in this ancient tradition! You can pray the Jesus prayer: it’s so simple to memorize, yet so profound and powerful. At The Catholic Company, we carry a lovely 100-bead set of chotki to assist you in this devotion. This set is crafted of olive wood from the Holy Land and is finished with a large Jerusalem cross. Comes in a white cloth case with a prayer card describing the Jesus prayer. Order yours today!