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A thousand years ago St. Gregory of Narek (951-1005) set out, with much trepidation, on a sublime mission to translate the pure sighs of the “broken and contrite” heart into an offering of words pleasing to God. Beginning each prayer with the incantation “speaking with God from the depths of the heart,” he referred to himself as “a living book (Prayer 39b)” and to his book as a compendium of prayers for all times and nations – “a testament. its letters like my body, its message like my soul (Prayer 54e).” Thus, the man equated himself with the book, and ever since, the book has been equated with this saintly man. So the book like the man came to be known affectionately as Narek.
Woe to my sinful soul,
for I have angered my creator.
Woe to this son of perdition,1
for I have forgotten the gift of life.
Woe to this debtor of untold thousands of talents,
for I haven’t the means to repay.2
Woe to this porter heavy laden with vile sins,
for I cannot lay down my burden to rest.
Woe to this debtor of the Lord,
for I cannot face the Almighty.
Woe to this heap of dried up reeds,
for I am consumed in Gehenna.3
Woe to me as I remember that the arrows of the
wrath of God are fitted with flames.4
Woe for my stupidity, for I did not
recall that the hidden shall be revealed.5
Woe for my impiety, for I always and
ceaselessly wove the web of evil.
Woe to my well-fed body
which shall be food for the immortal worms,6
for how shall I endure their fierce venom?
Woe to me for having drunk of the cup of death,
for how shall I suffer eternity?
Woe to me for raising this unworthy soul from
this corrupt body,
for how shall I face my judge?
Woe to me for the lack of oil in my lamp,
for its darkness shall not be relit.
Woe to me for the sudden alarm of the fear of dismay
when the door of the marriage feast is closed.
And woe to me for the terror of the voice of these words,
trembling and quaking, before the pronouncement
of our heavenly king’s judgment:
“I do not know you.” 7
1 . Jn 17,12.
2. Mt 18,23-34.
3. Is 5,24.
4. Ps 7,14.
5. Mt 10,26.
6. Is 66,24 Mc 9,48.
7. Mt 25,1-12.