“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.
A Christ God, awe-inspiring name, vision of majesty,1
inscrutable image of sublimity, infinite force,2
model of the light of salvation, defender of life,3
gate to the kingdom of heavenly rest,4
path of tranquility,5
refuge of renewal that ends sadness,6
almighty sovereign of all being,7
call to blessing,
voice of good news,
proclamation of bliss,
salve of immortality,
indescribable son of the one and only God.
What is impossible for me is easy for you.8
What is beyond my reach was put there by you.
What is inaccessible for me is close to you.
What is hidden from me in my fallen state is within view for your beatitude.
What is impossible for me is done by you.
What is incalculable for me is already tallied by you, who are beyond telling.9
What is despair for me is consoling for you.
What is incurable for me is harmless for you.10
What is sighing for me is rejoicing for you.
What is heavy for me is light for you.
What effaces me is written for your power.
What is lost for me is conquered for you.
What is inexpressible for me is comprehensible for you.
What is gloom for me is radiance for you.
What is infinite for me you hold in the palm of your blessed hand.11
What is somber for me is refreshing for you.
What sets me to flight, you withstand.
What holds me in check, you handily turn back.
What is fatal for me is nothing before your almighty essence.
B But you, merciful God of all, Lord Christ Jesus,
if you take pity on me, you can instantly find a way out of my predicament.
For the sake of the name of the majestic glory of your blessed Father,
for the sake of the compassionate will of your Holy Spirit,
look with favor upon this relentless expression of contrition for my wrongdoing
and the reproach I heap upon myself from the depth of my heart.12
Look upon the distracted unreadiness of my nature.
Grant healing for my wounds,
and a way out for me, for I am lost,
deliverance from my multiple symptoms of impending death,
and the path of life, for I am wayward,
renewal for me who am corrupt,
and entry into the light for me who am impious.
And if I have displayed unprecedented will,
how much more will you show your characteristic goodness?
And if a sweet fruit came forth from a thorn bush,
how much sweeter is the taste of immortality from the tree of life?
If I begged for mercy for those who hate me,
how would you not grant me, one of yours,
a second portion, Almighty, of your undiminishing abundance?
C Now, look at your greatness, Lord most high,
and then look at my smallness.
Accept this meager confession of my innumerable sins,
you who see everything in its totality.
And as you overlooked the fall of the Rock,13
may you ignore my vacillation, a small grain of sand.
And as you immediately pardoned him for his sins,
when David said “I have sinned,”14
may you do the same with your long-suffering
forbearance for the voice of my sighing heart,
which you grant to all generously and fairly,15
merciful creator of all.
Like a good and judicious conqueror,
who does not disdain me, the least of your captives,16
you did not destroy me, but renewed me,
who am sustained by your blood, compassionate Lord.17
For yours is salvation, from you is pardon,
and to you is befitting glory in all things forever.
1. Jn 12,45 Jn 14,9.
2. Col 1,15.
3. Jn 8,12.
4. Jn 10,9.
5. Jn 14,6.
6. Ap 21,4.
7. Col 1,16.
8. Mc 10,27.
9. Is 40,12.
10. 2Co 12,9.
11. cf. Is 40,12.
12. Ps 51,17 (Arm 50):17.
13. Mt 26,69-75.
14. 2S 12,13.
15. Rm 2,11.
16. cf. Paul, a prisoner of Christ: Ep 3,1 Phm 1,1 Phm 1,9.
17. Some mss. “and nourished by your bosom.”