“Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart”,
Written by St. Gregory of Narek, Armenian poet and monk,
Doctor of the Universal Church.
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.
Prayer 29 a-b
You alone are the origin of all goodness,
mercy beyond telling, Son of the one God on high,
who made the whole day a purgatory for our sins,1
and not a house of condemnation.
You are for me the expectation of good news,
instead of a day of dread.
You, physician to the ailing,
shepherd to the lost sheep,
master to the servant under your care,
pure wine for the dejected,
curative ointment for the wounded,
freedom for the captives of sin,
blessing of goodness for the rejected,
seal of grace for the despised,
the calling to anointment for the dispossessed,
restoration to uprightness for the fallen,
a mighty fortress for the stumbling,
a sublime helping hand to the disgraced,
the gate to heaven for the doubting,
stairway to bliss for the depraved,
the straight way for the confused,
forgiving king for the trespasser,
sweet hope for the abandoned,
the outstretched hand of life for the banished.
You alone are great and generous in everything.
You are the definition of abundant goodness,
who pours forth constantly without measure,
more than we ask or expect,
as Paul said in gratitude.2
For you commanded that we should do good,
from dawn to dusk, in the same day,
nine times fifty, plus three, plus four times ten.3
Always attentive, forgiving with an unfettered heart,
something more than the expectation of men’s prayers.
And if we place my wretchedness and disgrace beside
your glory, omnipotent and awesome power,
God of all, blessed Lord Christ,
by what measure of weight shall the balance between
the creator and the clay be set?
You remain in these things infinite and unexaminable,
good in all things, having no part in the wrath
of darkness; therefore, far less are the number of
stars than your greatness,4
for you called them into existence from nothing
by merely pronouncing their names.
Or take the mass of the earth floating in air,
created from nothing, from which you established the dry land of earth.
These are less than the number I formulated above,
by which you taught us to be like you in forgiveness.
2 Eph. 3:20.
3 Mt. 18:21-22. The total, 493, is greater than the forgiveness – 7 times 70, required by Jesus’ commandment. Some mss. leave the “three” out. However, it has been interpreted to be a mystical number – which when factored and written in Armenian numerical notation spells out the word “five,” which is the number of daily church services. Critical Edition, p. 1032-33, n. 5.
4 Ps. 146:4
M Truly, you hear, kind God,
You listen, king.
You lent an ear, life and light.
You paid attention, heavenly one.
You respected us, almighty.
You noted, knower of secrets.
You saw, keeper.
You empathized, Lord beyond telling.
You humbled yourself, exalted one.
You became meek, awesome one.
You were revealed, Lord beyond words.
You were defined, boundless one.
You were measured, unexaminable one.
You focused light, radiant one.
You became human, incorporeal one.
You became tangible, immeasurable one.
You took shape, you who are beyond quality.
You truly fulfilled the yearnings of those
who pray to you.
With the voice of the blissful,1
you were even for me, miserable soul that I am,
a kind intercessor, a living mediator,2
an immortal offering, an endless sacrifice,
a gift of purity, a priceless burnt offering,
an inexhaustible cup.
Merciful Lord, who loves mankind,
may you always show
the favor of your life-giving will and your
long-suffering patience toward me, a sinner.
To you glory forever.
1. 1Jn 2,1
2. He 7,25