“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.

Before I was, you created me.

Prayer 18 (a-b)

A I was born in sin, the child of mortal labor.
Now, in one day, a penalty of countless thousands
has come due.
I turn to you for forgiveness not on the meager human
scale, but with the full undiminishing measure
of lovingkindness shown toward us
by our Savior Jesus Christ:
Before I was, you created me.
Before I could wish, you shaped me.
Before I glimpsed the world’s light, you saw me.
Before I emerged, you took pity on me.
Before I called, you heard me.
Before I raised a hand, you looked over me.
Before I asked, you dispensed mercy on me.
Before I uttered a sound, you turned your ear to me.
Before I sighed, you attended me.
Knowing in advance my current trials,
you did not thrust me from your sight.
No, even foreseeing my misdeeds,
you fashioned me.

B And now, do not let me
whom you made, saved and took into your care,
be lost to sin and the Troublemaker’s deceptions.
Do not let the fog of my willfulness prevail
over the light of your forgiveness,
nor the hardness of my heart
over your long-suffering goodness,
nor my mortal flaws
over your perfect wholeness,
nor my weak flesh
over your invincible strength.