English Sh'himo

Dear Friends,


we are in the process of preparing the 2nd edition of the Sh'himo Namaskaram. Please be patient with us, and we will inform you once the 2nd edition is available.


To request a copy of the Book of Common Prayer (Sh'himo Namaskaram) please click here!

In the mean time, please check out the "Praying the Sh'himo" which is available via:


    

(only iTunes has the booklet which includes words to the liturgical hymns)

 


“Seven Times a Day I Praise You” – The Sh'himo Prayers

By Rev. Fr. Jake Kurian

 



Prayer. It’s our standard answer to all the problems that we deal with in our life. But as much as we talk about prayer, it’s easier said than done. Have we ever thought to wonder, what does the Church recommend to us for a prayer life? Does the Church have anything to say about how much we should pray, and what are we to pray during the week? As many people may not be familiar with the canonical hours of prayer, this hopes to be a basic introduction to the Common Hours of Prayer, or the “Sh'himo” prayers.

 

The primary purpose of prayer is to offer praise and adoration to our Lord. In fact, when we do request anything from God, our main request is mercy. We beseech Christ for mercy and compassion for the sins that we have committed against Him. However, the prayers are not just about repentance, but communion with God. In our communion with God, we are also brought into communion with those who loved God throughout their life: the Saints and the faithful departed as well as our faithful brethren on this earth. So prayer, while being personal, is not independent. Prayer for the Orthodox is personal, yet communal. The Sh'himo Prayers help us to approach our Lord humbly in communal, personal prayer.

 

It was only in seminary where I received my first exposure to the “Sh'himo” prayers. “Sh'himo” is the Syriac word for “common” or “ordinary.” It simply refers to the prayers that are done on ordinary days when there is not a Feast of the Church being celebrated.

 

There are Sh'himo prayers for each day of the week (except Sunday which is considered a festal day commemorating the Resurrection of our Lord, on which we use the Qyomtho Prayers). However, our Church currently has the practice of using QyomthoNamaskaram only on the Sundays from the Feast of the Resurrection (Qyomtho) of our Lord until the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14th). From September 14th until the following Passion Week, our Church has the practice of using the Sleeba Namaskaram on Sundays, which is essentially the Sh'himo prayer for Wednesday.

 

The Sh'himo prayers consist primarily of Psalms and hymns. The hymns are set to Syriac tones and are filled with beautiful, rich theology and heart-moving petitions, which make the hymns a hallmark of our worship. The Sh'himo has been translated from Syriac into Malayalam in both prose and song. Bede Griffiths, a monk from the Kurisumala Ashram, has translated the Sh'himo from Syriac into English prose. While setting the English Sh'himo prose into the meter of the Syriac tone is a project that still needs to be completed, select hymns have been done by a few of our deacons and seminarians of the American Dioceses.

 

As a kid growing up in the Church, I always heard that we are supposed to pray a total of 7 times a day. But, I never really knew what that referred to. Where did the idea of 7 times a day come from? It was King David, the Psalmist, who wrote “Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:164). In correlation with David’s model of prayer, the Church has developed seven hours of prayer and they are as follows:

 

1.Evening Prayer (Ramsho or Vespers) – 6PM

2.Bedtime Prayer (Soutoro or Compline) - 9PM

3.Night Prayers (Lilio or Nocturns, with three “watches” or Quamos) – 12AM

4.Morning Prayer (Sapro or Matins) – 6AM

5.3rd Hour Prayer - 9AM

6.6th Hour Prayer - 12PM

7.9th Hour Prayer - 3PM

 

The Hours of Prayer help us to mediate on the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. For example, at the 3rd Hour (9 AM), we are reminded of the time when Christ was put to trial and of his journey to Calvary. At the 6th Hour (12 PM), we are reminded of the time when Christ was hung on the Cross. At the 9th Hour (3 PM), we are reminded of the time when Christ gave up His spirit on the Cross. In the Night Prayer, we proclaim “Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Glory be to You, O God!” As we pray this, we are reminded of the triumphant Resurrection of our Lord. So, the times of prayer have significance in that they remind us daily of the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Sh'himo Prayers also have general themes for each day of the week:

 

Monday and Tuesday – Repentance

Wednesday – The Theotokos

Thursday – The Holy Apostles, Saints

Friday – The Holy Cross, Martyrs, Confessors

Saturday – The Faithful Departed

 

On Friday, we remember the Cross, as it was on Friday when our Lord was crucified. We also remember the Martyrs and Confessors who suffered for love of Christ. Saturday, we remember the departed as it was on Saturday when our Lord entered into Hades and preached the Gospel to the departed. Every Sunday we celebrate the feast of feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord. Praying the Sh'himo helps us to assimilate our lives to the life of the Church.

 

It is a sad reality that in recent times, the use of Sh'himo is becoming limited to seminaries, monasteries, and aramanas. While these prayers were designed to be done at their designated times, nowadays, these 7 times are often grouped together to make two times of prayer. For example, in the Diocese of South-West America Aramana, the 7 offices of prayer are observed in two separate times daily:

 

              6 AM – Night Prayer, Morning Prayer, 3rd Hour, 6th Hour Prayers

              6 PM – 9th Hour, Evening, & Compline Prayers

              *At 12:30 PM a Noon prayer, and at 10 PM a prayer before retiring to sleep is observed

 

In our busy and chaotic lives, it is hard for us to find time to pray. I know it is not easy to start implementing the Sh'himo in our lives, but we can try to the best of our ability. Here are three things we can do to get acquainted with the Hours of prayer.

 

1. If possible, get a copy of The Book of Common Prayer of the Syrian Church, Bede Griffiths, translator. This will be a great resource to pray, meditate, learn,and experience the faith and worship of the Church through prayer.

2. Be aware of the seven times of prayer, and make a regimen to observe them throughout the day. It could be as simple as saying the Qauma (Holy art Thou, O God…) or maybe making the sign of the Cross, or saying a small prayer (for example: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) at each hour throughout the day.

3. When we meet together for conferences, MGOCSM events, Sunday School events or meetings, let us make an effort to use the Sh'himo in communal prayer.

 

The idea is not to limit ourselves to just praying before bed or right when we wake up. Rather, we should start feeling the need and desire to pray all throughout the day. Our life as a Christian should be organized around prayer. After all, that is what observing the hours of prayer is all about. It is not simply to follow a rule for the sake of following it. Rather, the Sh'himo prayers are a tool to help us have a deep communion with our Lord and Savior. May the intercession of King David who prayed, “Seven times a day I praise You”, and all the Holy Saints be with us as we strive for a life of prayer and communion with God.