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The Jesus Prayer & Chotki Craft

" Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!"

What a great prayer to teach to our children! It's so simple, and yet it's all we need. This week, as we contemplate the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, we can attempt to imitate our justified friend the Publican by calling upon Jesus using the very words that he used in prayer.  Such a simple, yet powerful prayer, it sums up everything a soul needs in every time and situation and can be easily said and contemplated throughout the day. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As the mother of five young disciples of Christ, how often do I find myself doing mundane and seemingly mindless tasks;  Washing dishes...alone, because they disperse like frightened mice when I approach the sink after dinner...vacuuming, driving to this or that activity.  These are some of the many household tasks that lend themselves perfectly to contemplative prayer!  I have gotten into the habit of wearing a hand-made chotki, a ring of beads, on my wrist so that at a moments notice, whether it be day or sleepless night, I can immerse myself in the Jesus prayer.  

I learned to make these knotted chotki by watching a great tutorial video that Mother Gabriella, from Christ the Bridegroom Monastery posted a few years ago. (Thanks Mother Gabriella!)

I made them using hand-tied knots called Chotki. Traditionally they consist of 33 or 100 knots, but this particular kind has been modified and can be worn on the wrist so that any time of day or night, whenever the inspiration of the Spirit calls, a busy mom can be prepared!

These beautifully intricate knots came to be used for these prayer ropes by a monk of the Eastern Church who lived in the fourth century known as St. Pachomius. It was taught to him by none other than the Archangel Gabriel. St Pachomius used knots to count the number of prostrations and prayers he made during the day, but the enemy, knowing the value of those prayers and hoping to discredit them, untied the knots as soon as the prayers were offered. These new angelic knots, however, are made by making seven crosses in the cording. Seeing the sign of Christ in them, the enemy would leave these knots alone and the saint could then complete his prayers in peace. Today, it seems that a namesake of Gabriel has taken up the task of teaching us how to make these precious knots! I learned to make these knotted chotki by watching a great tutorial video that Mother Gabriella, from Christ the Bridegroom Monastery posted a few years ago. (Thank you, Mother Gabriella...I'm so glad I found it!)

I have found this design, with this number of beads to be most helpful in praying both the Jesus Prayer and the Rule of the Theotokos for myself, as well as for the children. Since the knots are somewhat difficult, pony beads may be an option for little hands to use instead. The children may also use these beads to keep track of their good deeds of the day.

You will need:

some woolen yarn,

matching embroidery floss,

and 21 pony beads.

First, cut two pieces of yarn and a two piece of floss to measure at least 12 inches.

Pair each length of yarn with a piece of floss (the floss will keep the yarn from stretching too much and give added durability to the finished product). Then wrap each end of them together with a piece of transparent tape (like a shoelace, in order to facilitate the pushing of the yarn through each bead) to form two cords.  Push both cords through one bead (I used a red one here), and place the bead in the center of the cords, knotting the bead in place on each side.  This will become the center point of the chotki.

On each side of the center bead, you will string 10 pony beads in the following manner.  Take the bead, and push one cord through from the right side, and the other through from the left, and pull it into place toward the center bead.  

Continue with the other beads, on each side, until all 20 beads are strung.

After all the beads are strung, knot the cords together behind them, forming a large strong knot, and making a circular set of beads.   Cut off the excess yarn to form a tassel ( traditionally there to dry the penitents tears as he prays!  How cool is that?)

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