“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.
C I, like a mirror of mankind,
mix with their sins my own,
and doubling the bitterness of my own with theirs,
I sigh with them.
Although there was no need to paint in harsher tones,
an already ugly picture,
yet I sinned here,
without thinking, I did what was not pleasing to you
with many condemnable errors.
Look upon me with compassion, Lord, for
like Peter caught in the act of denial,1
I am completely empty.
Shed light upon me with the rays of your mercy,
you who are benevolent in all ways,
that I might receive your blessing, Lord,
that I might be justified, live and be cleansed
of my inner turmoil,
not of the life with which you endowed me.
I do not dare spread my sinful hands before you
until you offer your blessed right hand
for the renewal of my condemned self.
Now, vanquish again my impudence
with your meekness,
visit upon me your lovingkindness toward humanity.
And with your might to do all in all with all,
forgive my wrongdoing, original, middle and last,
Christ, king of the light of the just,
for whom the impossible is possible.
D I am not worthy to mention your blessed name,
for I am capable of dealing mortal blows to you,
though you do only good,2
and to deface your seal, your grace, your breath of life,
your gifts, your legacy, your talents,
your image, your stamp, your anointing,
your name, your son-hood, your majestic honor,
your bounty, your courage, your friendship,
your life, your light, your blessedness,
your hope, your glory, your majesty
that cannot be laid low,
your incorruptible halo, your promise of secrets,
which through you, Lord Christ, was heralded to me in manifold ways.
I am as impudent as a serpent or adder,
with deaf ears, shut tight with wounds,3
which in the face of your ever growing goodness,
multiplied yet more my wrongdoing,
and completely destroyed me,
denied me life, and bound me with death,
a slave to decadence.4
E Now you who alone are fair and just in your benevolent judgment,
who are blessed in compassion,
I have sinned against you.
I have transgressed.
I have been unjust.
For these I am ruined, corrupted, guilty, debased.
I did not obey your confessed, worshiped, praised word.
You who revealed yourself among us with your love beyond telling,
the mere writing of which is great and the meaning
of which is overwhelming,
to you justice and glory and eternal praise,
and for me, ashamed before you, my caretaker,
atonement, mercy and healing,
help and protection for heart and soul,
praised in all forever.
1. Lc 22,61.
2. Lc 22,63.
3. Ps 58,5-6
4. 2P 2,19