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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 equate with this saintly man. So the book like the man came to be known affectionately as Narek.
E I again embrace this happy word,
repeating it willingly
like a kind of baptism:
I have sinned by forgetting your favor,
again I have sinned.
I have sinned by slaying my soul with my hands of flesh,
senselessly I have sinned.7
I have sinned by betraying the life you gave,
verily I have sinned.
I have sinned by ignoring your word,
basely I have sinned.
I have sinned by hastening the day of my death myself,
destructively I have sinned.
I have sinned by mortgaging myself to lifeless death,
mockingly I have sinned.
I have sinned by my impudence before your greatness,
annoyingly I have sinned.
G And since you are able to forgive all these
transgressions and cure these deadly wounds,
Lord of mercies, God of all
Christ King, Son of the exalted Father,
creator, compassionate, beneficent,
blessed, generous, bountiful,
awesome, mighty, merciful,
guardian, rescuer, bulwark,
savior, reviver, resusciator,
long-suffering, unvengeful, refuge,
physician, praised, heavenly,
ineffable, light, life,
resurrection, renewal, atonement.
H If you would look upon me with that goodwill
toward mankind as you do,
then as I contemplate you, I will cry out in anguish.
If you would listen, I will sigh.
If you would incline your ear, I will whisper a prayer.
If you would take note, I will beseech you.
If you would forgive, I will ask forgiveness.
If you would turn toward me, I will call.
For if you turn away, I will be ruined.
And if you kick me away, I will cry.
If you do not protect my soul, I shall die.
If you show me your terrible countenance, I will perish.
And if you scold me, I will tremble.
If you glare at me, I will shake.
If you are stern, I cringe.
If you drive me away, I whimper.
If you knock me down, I will shatter.
If you do not put out the flames of despair, I agonize.
If you despise me, I will flee.
If you threaten me, I will collapse.
If you examine me, I will be stoned.
If you look hard at me, I will sink.
If you do not spare me, I will be rejected.
If you summon me, I will be paranoid.
If you stare at me, I will be shamed.
If you call me, I will fear…
I But if you, Lord Jesus, reach out
to me in loving-kindness as I suffocate with sighs of pain,
then, as the Scriptures promised,
“Your cure will cleanse away the greatest sins.”10
And through your boundless kindness
I will be joined to you, with your image of light
re-imprinted upon my soul.
Atoned and re-established in your salvation,
I will reach the immortal life of the virtuous
and give glory forever to you
with the Father and Holy Spirit.
1. Mt 25,41.
2. Mt 25,32.
3. 1R 2,28.
4. Jos 7,19.
5. 1S 15,24.
6. Mt 27,4.
7. Rm 6,12.
8. Mt 7,3.
9. Commentators through the centuries have interpreted this as a witness to St. Gregory’s sainthood and visions. Critical Edition p. 1026, n. 14.
10. Qo 10,4.