“Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart”,
Written by St. Gregory of Narek, Armenian poet and monk,
Doctor of the Universal Church.

Gregorio di Narek1A 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.

My countless misdeeds are measured like

Prayer 6

C (…) My countless misdeeds are measured like
mounds of sand.
The boundless accumulation is less than the
mass of my lawlessness.

D For although small things mount up
as sands on the shore,
nevertheless, they are unique and distinct in their
origin and increase,
and like my transgressions, so countless that
they are impossible to comprehend:
one with its kith,
the other with its kin,

one with its defects,
the other with its dangers,
one with its thorns,
the other with its roots,
one with its stem,
the other with its fruits,
one with its limbs,
the other with its branches,
one with its shoots,
the other with its joints,
one with its claws,
the other with its fingers,
one with its shakiness,
the other with its sturdiness,
one with its causes,
the other with its effects,
one with its imprint,
the other with its traces,
one with its shadow,
the other with its darkness,
one with its tactics,
the other with its strategy,
one with its guile,
the other with its intent,
one with its trajectory,
the other with its size,
one with its depth,
the other with its baseness,
one with its spark,
the other with its passion,
one with its goods,
the other with its treasures,
one with its pipes,
the other with its fountain,
one with its torrents,
the other with its lightening,
one with its flames,
the other with its shame,
one with its pits,
the other with its abysses,
one with its embers,
the other with its dullness,
one with its thunder,
the other with its raindrops,
one with its currents,
the other with its floods and frost,
one with its gates,
the other with its roadways,
the furnace and its heat,
the fire and its fumes,
the melting tallow and its scent,
the wormwood tree and its bitter sap,
the destroyer and its victim,
the thief and his assassins,
the bully and his accomplices,
the master and his servants,
the beast and its whelps,
the biter and the bitten,
the corrupter and its imitator.

E And these are but the main categories
of the soul’s common afflictions.
They are further divided into smaller classes,
each of which has thousands upon
thousands of subclasses,
but the total number can be comprehended
only by the one who sees as done
that which is scripted in us.(1)
If a person does not indulge in self-deception nor
put on a mask,
and is not tricked by lack of faith,
but has self-knowledge,
and senses our common human nature,
and is cognizant of being earth born and knows our proper place and limitations,
then he shall understand this list of attributes,
not as some meaningless scribble,
nor as a complete description of even the essential types and kinds of imperfections whirling in our nature.
Rather, he will know that I have identified certain seeds of the thousands of evils,
and even if through these he learns of others,
he realizes that even these categories are not enough.

1. Rm 8,29-30 2Co 3,2-3.