Rejoice, O Virgin!

Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God,
Mary full of grace,
the Lord is with thee!
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
for thou hast born the Savior of our souls.

Θεοτόκε Παρθένε,
χαίρε κεχαριτωμένη Μαρία,
ο Κύριος μετά σου.
Ευλογημένη συ εν γυναιξί,
και ευλογημένος ο καρπός της κοιλίας σου,
ότι Σωτήρα έτεκες των ψυχών ημών

This is a standard English translation and the original Greek of the Eastern Orthodox equivalent to the Roman Catholic Hail, Mary. Though it’s understood that the Greek χαίρε, like the Latin Ave, is a greeting, and so perhaps may not have been actually heard by an ancient Greek speaker as Rejoice is heard today in English, etymologically the meaning stands, and the translation is enhanced by it. The prayer is common, appearing in many different services, as well as in personal devotions, of course.

One of those personal devotions will be very familiar to Roman Catholics familiar with the rosary. St Seraphim of Sarov taught various of his disciples The Rule of the Mother of God, which is quite the equivalent of the rosary. He believed the practice to be an ancient one, orginating among the monks of Egypt, originally established to replace recitation of the 150 psalms. One hundred and fifty Rejoice, O Virgin prayers are arranged in fifteen decades, each of which includes a meditation theme expressed through a short prayer before and after the decade. The pre- and post-decade prayers are separated by an Our Father… and the following prayer, also common in Eastern Orthodoxy:

Open unto us the door of thy loving-kindness, O most blessed Mother of God. As we set our hope in thee, let us not be confounded, but through thee may we be delivered from all adversities. For thou art the salvation of the Christian race.

These prayers are preceded by the Trisagion prayers (a whole set of prayers that typically open various services and personal prayer) and the Symbol of the Faith (a.k.a. the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). So, it’s alot of praying. From what I’ve read, Eastern Orthodox monks actually will pray 150 Rejoice, O Virgin prayers with a prostration after each, and then 150 Our Father prayers with the same, using a 300 knot komvoschini/prayer rope with one bead separating the two sets of 150. I don’t think they alternate the prayers with any others, though.

These are the meditations for the fifteen decades in St Seraphim’s rule, which are quite different from the mysteries associated with the rosary that I’m familiar with, most of which are represented by a feast day in both the Eastern and Western calendars:
First decade: the Birth of the Mother of God
Second decade: the Presentation of the Virgin
Third decade: the Annunciation
Fourth decade: the Meeting of the Virgin Mother of God and Holy Elizabeth
Fifth decade: the Nativity of our Lord and Savior
Sixth decade: the Presentation of our Lord
Seventh decade: the Flight into Egypt
Eighth decade: the Finding of our Lord in the Temple
Ninth decade: the miracle at the wedding in Cana
Tenth decade: the Crucifixion of our Lord
Eleventh decade: the Resurrection of our Lord
Twelfth decade: the Ascension of our Lord
Thirteenth decade: the Pentecost in the Upper Room
Fourteenth decade: the Dormition of the Mother of God
Fifteenth decade: the Glorification of the Mother of God

From several sources, I’ve put together a “cheat sheet” here for those who might like to read all those prayers, or perhaps give it a spin around the prayer rope, or rosary, or, like St Seraphim, on a lestovka or vervitsa (which is a folded/notched leather strip used for counting such prayers). If this is too intimidating, St Seraphim also recommended three Our Father prayers, three Rejoice, O Virgin prayers, and the Creed, saying that the Holy Spirit will lead the person praying into a deeper prayer life eventually. I think he knows what he was talking about….