Do you have a Komboskini? Have you ever worn one? Read on to discover the history and purpose of these prayer ropes worn by Greek Orthodox faithful.
Komboskini: jewelry or symbol of faith?
Have you seen someone you know wearing a Komboskini — a little black fabric bracelet that is composed of a series of knots? People of Greek Orthodox faith often wear such a bracelet which is not commonly referred to as jewelry, but is as beautiful and precious as gold. Let’s take a look at what a Komboskini is and what it’s for. Let’s go!
Komboskini: not a lucky charm
Unlike the ‘mati’ or evil eye symbol bracelet that seems to have a history surrounded by superstition, the Komboskini, or prayer bracelet, is a powerful piece which has a wonderful history based on faith. The Orthodox Christian Information Center tells us the purpose of the Kombiskini.
“The prayer rope is not intended to be used only by monks, but can be used by anyone who wants to pray to God. The prayer rope is not some kind of amulet with magic or exorcising powers. On the contrary, it is a purely Orthodox holy object used only for praying and nothing else. We use the prayer rope in order to pray secretly.”
Typically, when we pray on the Komboskini, we recite this traditional prayer on each knot
“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
However, not only is the Jesus Prayer used, but other continuously repeated breath prayers may be said. These include:
- Lord Have Mercy
- Come Lord Jesus
- Lord I Believe…
- Help My Unbelief
- Lord Save Me
Origin of the Komboskini
Saint Anthony the Great, the founder of monasticism, was said to have begun the tradition of tying the prayer rope. According to Chotki.com, St. Anthony began tying a rope to use in his daily prayer routine.
“The elder started by tying a leather rope with a simple knot for every time he prayed Kyrie Eleison (“Lord have Mercy”), but the Devil would come and untie the knots. Seeing a vision of the Theotokos, the elder began tying the knots so that the knots themselves would constantly make the sign of the cross. The Devil could not untie it because he is vanquished by the Sign of the Cross.”
In the 4th century, Saint Pachomius inaugurated the use of the prayer rope as an aid for illiterate monks to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations in their cells. Previously, monks would count their prayers by casting pebbles into a bowl but the use of the rope made it possible to pray the Jesus Prayer unceasingly, in accordance with Saint Paul’s injunction to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
All about the Komboskini
Let’s take a look now at the Komboskini itself.
What materials are used in a Komboskini?
The prayer rope is commonly made out of wool, symbolizing the flock of Christ, though now other materials are used also. The traditional color of the rope is black (symbolizing mourning for one’s sins), with either black or colored beads. Recently prayer ropes have also been made in a wide variety of colors.
Who can tie a Komboskini?
Though prayer ropes are often tied by monastics, laypersons are permitted to tie them also. In proper practice, the person tying a prayer rope should be of true faith and pious life and should be praying the Jesus Prayer the whole time.
Are all Komboskini the same?
Today, Komboskini are made in a variety of ways. With the traditional number of knots, they are made with elastic or sizable slipknot styles. They are also made in all sizes and make wonderful gifts.
So how do you make one?
Click here for detailed instructions and video tutorials.
Where can you buy Komboskini?
I write this from the beautiful island of Cephalonia where I’ve just visited the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos. Komboskini are lovingly crafted and sold by the nuns who live there. They are also available through many other monasteries, online through many Orthodox websites and are very reasonably priced. You may also find them in your parish’s bookstore.
Now you know about the Komboskini
This powerful adornment is something no one should be without. Add a Komboskini to your prayer ritual today.
Paraskevi, also known as Vivian Paul Anton, is a 2nd generation jewelry designer, certified gemologist, and proprietor of Paul’s Jewelers in Milwaukee, WI. She trained at the Gemological Institute of America and at the Kulicke-Starke Academy of Arts. Early in her career, she interned with Ilias Lalaounis in Greece. Her pieces have been featured in major magazines and acquired by actors, athletes, and patrons all over the world.
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