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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.
A Blessed in holy essence,
boundless and unchangeable, truly good,
worthy of adoration, happiness professed
by all the earth,
most complete revelation of persistent hope,
compassionate and merciful,
without grudges even for the blinking of an eye
despite the sin of many years.1
Lord, with a new showering of grace and streams of mercy from on high,
who delights in pouring forth enlightenment
miraculously without end,
more abundantly than upon the nations of old
and who opened and broadened those narrow windows2
through which knowledge glimmers as Solomon said,3
for him, and with him for me, a wretched sinner.
You lift the screen which blocked the entry4
of God’s freely given mercy,
the good news that was foretold
in the Old Testament obliquely, for example:
“Turn toward me and I will turn toward you,”5
and “when you turn and regret, then you shall revive.”6
B For he changes the gloom of twilight
into the brightness of snow,
and people drenched in blood he washes white as wool.7
In the midst of anger you still remember mercy.8
The deserted cities of Israel are inhabited anew.9
The overgrown byways abandoned by men are trod again.
Those wasting from the famine of the soul are restored by your hand.
God withdrawing in anger, returns in mercy,10
granting pardon and refuge,
and in the midst of reprimands grants double protection.
With his heartache, he also feels compassionate caring.
C The venerable voices of the prophets, foretold
the liberating mission of your blessed coming,
which is beyond human telling.
For the manifestations of the revelation
of your good news
and the salvation of the cross,
are countless and varied,
faint and feeble,
old and fleeting.
You raised your altars everywhere as testimony to
the blood of your new covenant,
which echoes more resoundingly
than the condemnation of Abel’s murder.11
Your victory in the battle for goodness,
for a new, immortal life of grace, baptism, resurrection, and renewal,
for our kinship with you and union with your Holy Spirit,
for forgiveness, liberation, and enlightenment,
for eternal purity, true bliss,
in communion with the angels, in unfading glory,
is the plea for reconciliation upon our lips
voiced by our Lord on high.
And what is more awe-inspiring,
for it is a monument to your magnanimity: the gift of
divine nature by election of your grace,12
uniting us with you, Creator, by partaking of your body
and sharing in your light of life,
the fulfillment of the good promise,
which, in Paul’s words, the Old Law did not have.13
You, Savior, came with your father’s bounty,
perfected and fulfilled in perpetuity
our undiminishing hope in you, Redeemer of all.
To you glory with your Father,
with praise and blessings to the Holy Spirit,
forever and ever.
1. Ps 103,8-10 (Arm. 102):8-10.
2. 1R 6,4.
3. Ct 2,9.
4. 2Co 3,8-18.
5. Ml 3,7, Za 1,3.
6. Is 30,15.
7. Is 1,18, Za 9,7.
8. Ha 3,2.
9. Is 6,11, Is 44,26.
10. Os 5,15, Os 6,1-3.
11. He 12,24.
12. 2P 1,3.
13. He 7,19.