“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 equate with this saintly man. So the book like the man came to be known affectionately as Narek.

Now, tormented by bitter grief I pray

Prayer 17 (a-c)

A Do not add to the pain of my sighs.
Do not wound me. I am already injured.
Do not condemn me. I am already punished.
Do not torture me. I am already tormented.
Do not cudgel me. I am already beaten.
Do not push me. I have already fallen.
Do not destroy me. I am already discredited.
Do not reject me. I am already banished.
Do not exile me. I am already persecuted.
Do not embarrass me. I am already humbled.
Do not scold me. I am already cowering.
Do not crush me. I am already broken.
Do not upset me. I am already agitated.
Do not shake me. I am already quivering.
Do not confuse me. I am already bewildered.
Do not flay me. I am already picked over.
Do not pound me. I am already crushed.
Do not taint me. I am already debased.
Do not blind me. I am already in the dark.
Do not frighten me. I am already perplexed.
Do not roast me. I am already charred.
Do not kill me. I am already dying.
Do not overload me. I am already weakened.
Do not yoke me. I am already bent over.
Do not double my wailing. I am already weeping.
Do not till my soil too deeply.
Do not scatter my ashes too harshly.
Do not judge my works too roughly.
Do not blow my dust too meanly.

B Do not measure your greatness against my smallness,
your light against my dimness,
your good nature against my native evil,
your cornucopia of blessing against my cursed fruit,
your genuine sweetness against my complete sourness,
your unchanging glory against my total debasement,
your shrine of life against my vessel of clay,
your lord of lords against my dust of the earth,
your undimishing fullness against my slavish poverty,
your unpillaged abundance against my abandoned torment,
your unblemished goodness against my most wretched squalor,
for who can reach morning and
at the light of daybreak expect dark,
or at the portal of life expect death,
or at liberation expect bondage,
or at grace expect condemnation,
or at salvation expect destruction,
or at renewal expect ruination,
or at blessing expect banishment,
or at cure expect injury,
or at fullness expect want,
or at abundance of bread expect famine,
or at the flow of rivers expect drought,
or at motherly compassion expect deception,
or at the care of God’s right hand expect persecution?

C And now with my body shaken by disease
and my soul in peril I pray,
“Lord, if you want you can make me clean.”1
Like a groping blind man,
I cry with laments and call to you
not only the son of David,
but also profess your divine birth.
I not only call you, “Rabbi,”2
the name of honor given to teachers
who claim to know the truth, but I also
believe you to be the Lord of heaven and earth.
I not only expect to be cured when you are close,
O compassionate God, by the touch of your hand,
but also when we are separated by great distances
through the power of your words.
I do not draw a line between your will
and your compassion, a line of doubt,3
for I believe that you will, because
you are compassionate and you are able,
because you are our creator.
Say the word and I will be cured.4
Let me join the centurion in his faith.5
Let my faith be not just for the short
distances from altar to altar,
for I know you are able to raise
the dead and make them whole.
Even sitting in heaven you work miracles
over the whole world below.
And I have nothing to give in return. (…)

1. Mt 8,2.
2. Mt 20,31.
3. Mc 9,21.
4. Mt 8,8.
5. Mt 8,5-10.