Gregory Narek - Prayers - Prayer 50
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A Since there is no salvation for souls without Christ1
and there is no light without the sight of the eyes,
nor is there sweetness of the sun without
the rays of dawn,
in the same way there is no remission of sins
without confession of secrets and the baring of the soul.
For what good is purity,
if you are judged with the Pharisees?
Or what harm are my transgressions,
if I am to be praised with the tax collectors? 2
Where is it written that Joel was punished,
for repeating three times the distress of his soul? 3
Might a holy man be blamed for reminding us
of the Last Judgment? 4
Is it possible that Isaiah can be called a man of
unclean lips,5 when he stood apart from the deeds of
the house of Israel?
And how can God, who took on Adam’s body out of
sympathy for me, be considered blameworthy for
praying to his Father like a sinner? 6
How can the proverb be interpreted:
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” 7
For he, who does not confess the error of Adam
to his own heart, and like the fortunate king who took
upon himself the sins of his ancestors,8
consider the sins of all his own9
shall lose his righteousness, like one who thinks our
human nature incorruptible.
And as it is written, a heart can not make
a merry countenance in expectation of the good news10
if one does not, as taught by Christ’s apostle
experience sorrow and repentance.11
B Now, I must memorialize
the ancient counsel of the sage,
advice even our Lord saw fit to repeat12
when the ungodly gather,
do not go sit at the head of the table among the haughty13
the place David and Jeremiah advised,14
as a hard and fast rule, to avoid.
But rather sit with the contrite, those humiliated by sin,
and stricken by the fear of retribution on
the great day of judgment,
those who have humbled themselves willingly with the least of those on earth.
With them God on high rejoices.
And I dare to be deemed worthy of this rule
in order to be ranked among the chosen on
the seats of bliss and to escape the rebuke of the prophet, who remarked about the arrogant:
“Do not come near me, for I am pure, and who can
look upon me?”15
Thus drawing upon blessed David’s immeasurable
humility, I say with him:
I am like an animal,16
deprived of sensibility and besieged by evils.17
My wounds have festered and become putrid
because of my incorrigible stupidity.18
And even like certain of the chosen in Assyria, who were
spotless in soul, but who by their own willful impudence
I say with them in the words of the great priest Ezra,
“I am unable even to lift up my face to you, God.”20
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,21
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
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,22
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,23
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.24
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. Ac 4,12.
2. Lc 18,9-14.
3. Jl 1,15.
4. Jl 2,1-11
5. Is 6,5.
6. He 5-7.
7. Qo 7,4.
8. Ps 106,6.
9. Rm 5,12.
10. Pr 15,12.
11. 2Co 7,10.
12. Pr 25,6.
13. Lc 14,8.
14. Ps 1,1, Ps 26,6, Jr 15,17.
15. Is 65,5.
16. Ps 73,22.
17. Ps 40,12.
18. Ps 38,5.
19. Da 3,28-30.
20. Esd 9,6.
21. Lc 22,61.
22. Lc 22,63.
23. Ps 58,5-6
24. 2P 2,19
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A Now, should I, a mortal who has strayed in every way,
plead with another earthly being,
to whom it is vain to cry out?
To a mere rational mortal, on whom it would be false to place hope of salvation?1
To a frail human, whose strength is as feeble and
faltering as his word?
To the princes on earthly thrones,2
whose trappings are as transitory as their beings?
To a blood brother,
who likewise is needy of contentment?
To my earthly father,
whose care diminishes with his dwindling days?
To my mother, who bore me,
whose compassion waned with her retreating life?
To the kingdoms of this world, perhaps, who are always more artful in killing than giving life?
Or to you, beneficent God, glorified in the highest,
who live and give life to all and
who after death are able to work incorruptible renewal.3
B For if we flee, it is you who come after us.
If we are weak, you give us strength.
If we falter, you set us on the right and easy path.
If we faint, you encourage us.
If we are ailing in body and soul, you heal us.
If we lie, you justify us with your truth.
If we stumble into the abyss, you direct us to heaven.
If we do not turn from our willfulness, you guide us.
If we sin, you weep.
If we are just, you smile.
If we are estranged, you mourn.
If we approach, you celebrate.
If we give, you receive.
If we become stubborn, you are patient.
If we are ungrateful, you grant abundantly.
If we quit, you are sad.
If we are brave, you rejoice.
C The blessed and wonderful Psalm One Hundred Three4
comforts my failing heart,
and heralds the good news of the hope of life.
It is an assurance of salvation
that triumphs over demons and the doubts of
It is like the Lord’s cross, a sign of good fortune,
glorious and resplendent,
unshakable in its exalted light,
invincible in the strength on high,
standing as an irresistible champion,
against the immoral ways of Satan’s tyranny.
For the discerning soul, it is a treasure of spiritual goods,
showing the defeat of death and the absolution
of sin, plus
double hopes for each, now and eternally.
It promises restoration for the righteous.
Its rules preach goodness and give life as
written by the Spirit of God.
The Psalms were songs of everything for
the pure in heart:
a testament of life, written for all people.
D For the Old law was a faint image of the New,5
holding in its bosom good news and assurance
of the great, blessed victory over death
and heavenly life like that of the angels forever,
They were passing writings and replaceable rules.6
Their function was to condemn the frailties
and they were to be taken as earthly commitment and
weak as an intercessor for reconciliation.8
They leave undone the words of those who prayed.
Although they show the salvation of Manasseh,9
who after so many unforgivable sins,
in the trustworthy account of the prophet,
guilty of spilling the blood of the righteous in
the city of his ancestors, a city
renowned for its miracles and dedicated to
the great king.10
Even the greatest of the seers, his teacher11
and the steward of the estate built by his forebears,
was hacked in two by Manasseh with horrific torment.
As a symbol of his revolt, cutting off the last
hope of his salvation,
he committed yet another brutal misdeed and still
he had the arrogance to enter into unlawful battle with the Most High.
Never even having respected the honor of the creator
and having denied the name of him who
dwells in the altar,
he persecuted the spirit of God and pledged
himself to Satan.
And that very temple of the Lord,
designated by God for adoration with incense,
the most renowned gathering place,
revered by the nations as a sacred place,
where angelic visions and triumphant divine signs
appeared in brilliant revelation.
In that place reminiscent of heaven,
he erected the four-faced idol Kevan as
a competing deity,12
turning it into a vile cult center, a wasteland of rubble,
and altar for satanic sacrifices,
dispossessing the heavenly king of his regal
stripping the most bountiful of his belongings.
Transforming the landlord into a vagabond with
no place to rest,
he built a splendid tabernacle to Beelzebub,13
and expelled the awesome name from there.
Taking the legacy of the praiseworthy hostage,14
wretchedly degrading the stature of the most merciful,
he turned the hall of light into a small fox hole
and for him who holds the world in his hand,
he left not even a hut from his own creation to
cover his head.15
He tore down the sanctuary of the Holy of Holies,
where the mysteries of blood sacrifice were conducted,
and in their place installed fortune tellers.16
He opened many ways to sinfulness.17
Like a shepherd of destruction he led his flock
to slaughter, a frenzied priest of waywardness.
And all this he did, knowing full well the religion
of the Laws, having as a father the great King Hezekiah, the likeness of David.18
E He was so resourceful in his evil-doing that
he blasphemed and contested God’s honor
with which he had been granted the glory
of the kingdom.
He butchered the multitude of the pious at prayer,19
a traitor to his family, a bane to his associates,
murderer of his intimates, killer of his companions,
he could not turn toward God, for he had rejected him.
He could not remember Abraham,
for he had become estranged.
He could not pray by Isaac, for he had cursed him.
He could not take pride in Israel, for he had been
banished from the glory of that name
of great mystery.
He could not sing a song of David,
for he had reprimanded him.
He could not approach the place of penitence,
for he had befouled it.
He could not take refuge in the tabernacle of God,
for he had replaced it with a molten idol.
He could not call to Moses, for his sins
against him were unforgivable.
He could not pray to Aaron, for he was
guilty before him.
He could not turn to the group of prophets close at hand,
for he had killed them all.
Nevertheless, he was granted forgiveness of sins
and regained his rule over the kingdom,20
so that you, Lord who does good,
might multiply and inspire
praise beyond words that cannot be silenced,
through the peoples of all nations and
the ages of all times,
so that you might keep the gates of hope open for entry,
for the glory of your exaltation
and as salvation for condemned people like me, to whom
Christ gives the gift of immortality.
1. Ps 108,12 (Arm 107,13).
2. Ps 146,3 (Arm 145,3).
3. Ph 3,21.
4. Arm 102.
5. He 7,18.
6. He 10,9.
7. 2Co 3,7-9.
8. He 10,3-8.
9. 2Ch 33,11-20.
10. 2R 21,1-16
11. referring to Isaiah.
12. Am 5,26, Ez 8,3, 2R 21,5. Kevan has been identified in various ways, including the Assyrian god Kiun, which Eusebius describes as having four eyes, and later is used in Arabic and Syriac to refer to the planet Saturn.
13. 2R 1,2, Mt 12,24, name for Baal.
14. This has been identified as the treasures King Hezekiah. 2R 20,13
15. Mt 8,20
16. 2R 21,6.
17. Mt 8,13.
18. 2R 18,3-6.
19. 2R 21,16.
20. 2Ch 33,13.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A Blessed in holy essence,
boundless and unchangeable, truly good,
worthy of adoration, happiness professed
by all the earth,
most complete revelation of persistent hope,
compassionate and merciful,
without grudges even for the blinking of an eye
despite the sin of many years.1
Lord, with a new showering of grace and streams of mercy from on high,
who delights in pouring forth enlightenment
miraculously without end,
more abundantly than upon the nations of old
and who opened and broadened those
through which knowledge glimmers as Solomon said,3
for him, and with him for me, a wretched sinner.
You lift the screen which blocked the entry4
of God’s freely given mercy,
the good news that was foretold
in the Old Testament obliquely, for example:
“Turn toward me and I will turn toward you,”5
and “when you turn and regret, then you shall revive.”6
B For he changes the gloom of twilight
into the brightness of snow,
and people drenched in blood he washes white as wool.7
In the midst of anger you still remember mercy.8
The deserted cities of Israel are inhabited anew.9
The overgrown byways abandoned by men
are trod again.
Those wasting from the famine of the soul are restored by your hand.
God withdrawing in anger, returns in mercy,10
granting pardon and refuge, and
in the midst of reprimands grants double protection.
With his heartache, he also feels compassionate caring.
C The venerable voices of the prophets, foretold
the liberating mission of your blessed coming,
which is beyond human telling.
For the manifestations of the revelation
of your good news
and the salvation of the cross,
are countless and varied,
faint and feeble,
old and fleeting.
You raised your altars everywhere as testimony to
the blood of your new covenant,
which echoes more resoundingly
than the condemnation of Abel’s murder.11
Your victory in the battle for goodness,
for a new, immortal life of grace, baptism, resurrection, and renewal,
for our kinship with you and union with
your Holy Spirit,
for forgiveness, liberation, and enlightenment,
for eternal purity, true bliss,
in communion with the angels, in unfading glory,
is the plea for reconciliation upon our lips voiced by
our Lord on high.
And what is more awe-inspiring,
for it is a monument to your magnanimity: the gift of
divine nature by election of your grace,12
uniting us with you, Creator, by partaking of your body
and sharing in your light of life,
the fulfillment of the good promise,
which, in Paul’s words, the Old Law did not have.13
You, Savior, came with your father’s bounty,
perfected and fulfilled in perpetuity
our undiminishing hope in you, Redeemer of all.
To you glory with your Father,
with praise and blessings to the Holy Spirit,
forever and ever.
1. Ps 103,8-10 (Arm. 102):8-10.
2. 1R 6,4.
3. Ct 2,9.
4. 2Co 3,8-18.
5. Ml 3,7, Za 1,3.
6. Is 30,15.
7. Is 1,18, Za 9,7.
8. Ha 3,2.
9. Is 6,11, Is 44,26.
10. Os 5,15, Os 6,1-3.
11. He 12,24.
12. 2P 1,3.
13. He 7,19.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A Lord, Lord almighty, king of all creation,
blessed mercy, God of all,
who surpasses the limits of the widespread expanses,
you are the sum of all infinities,
The solid is fluid for you, and the fluid solid.1
There is nothing impossible for you, O terrifying,
Fire is a refreshing mist2 and rain a consuming flame.3
You can make a stone into a speaking figure,4
or turn a speaking figure into a breathless statue.5
You honor the repentant sinner,
and the seemingly pure you scrutinize justly
Those approaching death you release with
the joy of grace.7
And the humiliated you restore, anointing their faces with cheer.8
You rescue the one who has stumbled into a snare.9
And the one who wavers you set confidently
upon a rock.10
The one who is afflicted and sighing you make happy.11
And the impudent you put in his place.12
And when our resources are exhausted
you perform the greatest miracles.
For you forgive sins and erase our iniquity;
you pardon our injustices and forget our sins
as the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah predicted.13
B When I consider, deeply grateful,
the grace of your new salvation
I am dumb struck by its breadth.
For this inexhaustible favor of your light,
which you have bestowed upon a stubborn
wretch like me,
I shall pray to you with the prayer you taught,14
while continuing my writings,
filling the leaves of this book of mournful psalms,
with grieving and sighs of the heart.
But in doing this I have, for the pleasure of the Giver,
mixed the cure with the pain,
encouragement with disappointment,
the name of our creator with discouragement,
comfort with sadness,
the sweetness of our Savior with my bitterness,
grace with the retribution of the Law,
your liberating blessing with cursed punishments,
complete renewal with the death of the body.
C I believe in your almighty word, hence I bear witness.15
Hear the silence of my heart, Lord Jesus, and
the great clamor of my voice crying perpetually for you,
who came to share our body and our image,
who came also
as a high priest not under the Law, but throwing off the yoke of the Law.16
Instead of animal sacrifice, you offered your
perpetually sacrificed without dying and
without diminishing the pardon you grant,
not just for those of few sins,
but also for those whose expectation of life is cut off.
With these bodies so inclined to sin,18
how could we reach salvation, even if we tried for
ten thousand years?
But you God of all, for this reason,
willingly made yourself the sacrifice,19
and suffering death are shared in communion
for our pardon.
Not that you, O fountain of purity, are forced to be
sacrificed daily; rather you chose it through
the Holy Spirit
and with the approval of the Father for
You are continuously sacrificed.
And you, inscrutable God of all,
taking on my nature for my sake and in my stead,
for my salvation,
as if I were united and participating in your very being
through your all-embracing body.
And you, benefactor, for me and those like me,
taking my sins upon you,
though you are sinless, and accepting death,
which was the punishment I, a mortal sinner, deserved,
and on my behalf bearing guilt,
so I may suffer with you who
willingly dies but remains living.
You are offered in the divine mystery and
distributed in indivisible parts,
not by the hands of those who deny you,
but by the faith of those who confess to you.
D A certain pagan priest who had converted
once made a weighty decision,
with presumptuous expectations for a person
such as he, saying:
“I believe that with the death of my passing body,
I will more readily attain glory and bliss
than through martyrdom or even,
through right living, wretch that I am.”
And from his paradoxical observation I concluded
that he actually believed, that even the pious,
without partaking in communion,
cannot be truly fulfilled,
until they are united in spirit through this great mystery.
When he said, “You were sacrificed twice
for me a sinner,”
he meant, “you truly became me,
exchanging my vileness with your savor,
sacrificing your material body,
through the wafer of the life of light.”
For these reasons, at the last supper in the upper room,
at the first partaking of this grace,
as the cure for incurable diseases,
he distributed his body and blood for the
forgiveness of sins.
This he deemed higher than martyrs’ shedding
their own blood.
By this example of hope, he sought to show
God gives more weight to this sacrifice of faith,
than through other efforts to obtain pardon, mercy or grace.
So much greater is the force of the divine compared to the human,
and the willing sacrifice of the Lord’s body united with the divine,
than the offering of animal sacrifices.21
the immortal, not the mortal,
the awesome light, not the shadowy darkness,
the eternal, not the passing,
the exalted, not the earthly,
the uncreated, not the created,
goodness in its essence, not corruption by nature,
especially since his is the willing and his the
giving of life,
and he is the occasion for blessing, not a cause
E Now, I pray you, compassionate Lord,
grant me, broken in heart and spirit,
the salve of life from heaven on high.
Come sweetly to me, ill with sin.
Pardon my debts, in your omnipotence.
And for my part, the truth and trustworthiness of these words lie in this:
You, creator of all, dwell in the saints.22
And in the true words of Paul, as we sow,
so shall we reap.23
And, the infirm of sight can not bear the glare of sun.24
But you, doer of good, who created everything
look kindly upon those who truly have believed in you,
deeming this enough for salvation.
You who are not limited by law,
but prevail over it, breaking loose from its legalism.
For all us sinners in our bewilderment,
you remain the only condition for the good news.
To you with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
glory and power forever.
1. NM 20,8 Ex 14,22.
2. Da 3,25.
3. Gn 19,24; Sg 16,17-19.
4. Mt 3,9, Lc 19,40.
5. Gn 19,26.
6. Lc 18,9-14.
7. Ac 12,11 Da 13 (Arm).
8. Mc 5,25-34.
9. Ps 145,14 (Arm 144):14.
10. Ps 40,2 (Arm 39):2.
11. 2R 20,1-8.
12. 2R 20,8-11.
13. Is 43,25, Jr 31,34.
14. Mt 6,7-9.
15. 2Co 4,13.
16. He 5,1-10.
17. He 9,11-14 He 10,1-18.
18. Rm 7,23-24.
19. Ga 2,20 Ep 5,2.
20. Commentators believe this to be a reference to a Zoroastrian priest who converted after seeing the great faith of the Armenians at the battle of Vardanants in 451. Critical Edition, p. 1061, n. 13.
21. He 9,11-14.
22. Ps 22,3-4 (Arm 21):3-4.
23. Ga 6,7-8.
24. Yeznik Koghbatsi, Refutation of the Sects, 1.1.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A And now, in all and for all, your mercy is hope,
Lord Jesus, the first light of our eyes and our hearts,
all good deeds, life and immortality are from you.
Turn with compassion toward me
and make my soul return to you rejoicing.1
For without you I cannot be transformed anew,
and if your will is not in sympathy with me,
I am unable to save myself since I am condemned
And if you, my guide, did not show me the way,
marking the footsteps on the path that leads to you,
I would fall into the abyss on the right and the left.
B I am not proud, for I am justly scorned.
I am not arrogant, for I am blameworthy.
I am not haughty, for I am abandoned.
I do not boast, for I am reduced to silence.
I do not rebel, for I am mocked.
I do not rejoice, for I am pitiful.
I do not justify myself, for I am wicked.
A horse does not go straight without someone
at the reins,
nor does a ship sail forth without a helmsman,2
nor does a ploughshare make a furrow
without a plowman,
nor does a pair of oxen move properly without a driver,
nor does a cloud float in the sky without the wind,
nor do the stars appear and disappear without
nor does the sun course through the zodiac without
the action of air.
Nor do I, like them, do anything except at the pleasure
of your commandments, doer of good.3
For you alone give life to thinking beings.
And you alone maintain order in the cycle of creatures.
And you alone are my salvation, as the Psalmist said,4
and you proclaim in joyous voice the good news,
which resounds in the ears of the attentive of all ages –
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest and cleanse you of your sins.”5
C But what does it avail me to be cleansed,
if I am only to be soiled again?6
And what use is taking communion,
if I am to be damned to Hell?7
Or why should I glory in Abraham,
if I have strayed from his deeds,8
I, the abominable son of an Amorite father,
and a Hittite or Canaanite mother,
in the words of the Prophet, as if written for me.9
I deserve to be the disinherited offspring of
the Ethiopian, and not the fruit of Sarah’s womb,10
in the prophet’s words, apt to me.11
I am the brother of Samaria and Gomorrah.12
I am a child unwashed and unsalted,
the unripe fruit of the unripe womb of Aholah
doubly condemned by the Prophet Ezekiel.
D And like one imperiled on the high seas,
tossed by waves whipped up by the winds,
I am in terror and torment,
swept away by the wild currents,
clawing with my fingers this way and that to hold on,
as if borne away in the torrents of a river
flooding in spring,
in an involuntary and pitiful downward course.
Gulping water, unable to breathe because of debris
I have swallowed,
foul, slimy, prickly seaweed,
dragging me into the pangs of death.
Like a drowning man, carried by the flow,
I am wretched:
They speak, but I do not understand.
They call, but I do not hear.
They shout, but I do not wake up.
They clamor, but I do not budge.
They trumpet, but I do not rally.
I am wounded, but I do not feel.
Like an abominable idol,
devoid of any sense of goodness,
my true essence is more evil
than this example,
more heinous and reprehensible,
deserving to be brought before the tribunal of Christ.
E And since I leave readers this testament
recording my misdeeds along the path of no return,
that they might pray to God through my words
day by day,
may this book remain as a guide for repentance,
continuously lifted in voice to you, almighty Lord,
its letters like my body, its message like my soul.
May it always be present before you, O boundless God.
Accept my pleas as from an innocent petitioner,
compassionate God, who loves mankind,
blessed through all eternity.
1. Jr 31,18.
2. Jc 3,3-4.
3. Jn 15,5.
4. Ps 62,2 (Arm 61):2.
5. Mt 11,28.
6. 2P 2,20-22.
7. He 6,4-6.
8. Jn 8,39-40.
9. Ez 16,2-3 Ez 16,45.
10. Gn 21,2.
11. Am 9,7.
12. Ez 16,46
13. Ez 23,3-4.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A On the wings of my soul I have soared
through endless generations of mankind,
weighing them in the scales of my rational mind.
I found none my equal in sin.
Therefore, I have adopted the Psalm of David
as my theme,
like a stern reprimand delivered with the overseer’s staff,
“Who equals me in my wrongdoing and iniquity?”1
And since these words literally apply to me,
a mortal man,
I again testify against myself under oath,
roundly condemning myself
rather than letting others be banished for my words,
so that perhaps you might pardon me,
forgiver of my sins.2
B Now, here in this book, what prayers,
what fragrant incense
shall I offer pleasing and acceptable to you,
blessed heavenly king Christ?
If not a prayer that you bless those I have cursed,
release those I have bound, free the condemned,
comfort the outcast, reconcile the antagonized,
console the mournful, heal the afflicted,
care for the shunned, protect the betrayed,
minister to the souls of those whose bodies are wounded.
Thus, when I greet people with blessings, hear me,
and when with curses, pay no attention,
C I am most wretchedly tormented,
the least of those who pray to you with this book.
I have forgiven my debtors with all my soul,
so that you might block the cruel wishes of
my spiteful voice.
And on my knees repeatedly, I have prayed,
with all my heart, for reconciliation with those who
have betrayed me.
I pray for them along with those who have
For as you are greater than I,
may you visit a comparable portion of mercy upon me,
you who are life for mortals like me,
strength for the frail,
might for the unsteady,
fountain of wisdom for the stupefied.
For I am always stumbling in error,
like an inexperienced diver in dark waters,
unwittingly in the snare of death,
I did not comprehend the danger.
I did not recognize the trap.
I did not see the hidden devices for capturing the quarry.
I did not suspect camouflaged traps.
I did not sense the ambush on all sides.
I did not feel the hostage-taking fishhook net.4
As the Psalmist said,
“Evils visited me, and I was unable to recognize them.” 5
D And as a certain foreign philosopher aptly said,
“Evil is death that comes without warning or reason.” 6
I shall confirm it in my own case:
Like dumb cattle,
we die, but are not terrified.
We perish, but are not astonished.
We are buried, but are not humbled.
We are shunned, but are not contrite.
We are corrupted, but are not regretful.
We are worn down, but do not care.
We are robbed, but we do not gather ourselves.
We proceed, but without precautions.
We are enslaved, but are not aware.
E That happy man, Job, called mortal death rest,7
and with that holy man I too would agree,
had I not the heavy burden of mortal deeds and
were I not on the path of the hidden traps, where
the trapsetter is invisible,
the present is non-existent,
the past unknown, and the future questionable,
I am impatient and my nature is skeptical,
my legs shaky and my mind reeling,
my passions are unruly and my habits intemperate,
my body is laced with sin and my inclinations toward the worldly,
my rebelliousness innate and my character contradictory,
my dwelling clay and the rain pelting,
my needs innumerable and perils on all sides,
my mind fond of evil and my desires hating the good,8
my life ephemeral and my joys rare,
my delusion stupefying and my pastimes childish,
my work vain and my pleasures illusory,
my hoarding is of nothing and my storehouse filled with the wind,
my likeness is of a shadow and my image ridiculous.
For when the command came,9
as St. Paul wrote,
it found me unprepared.
Sin came alive when confronted by justice
and I died for life and came alive for death.
F As the Good Book foretold10
alien, evil forces, stole the wise treasure of my heart.
Wisdom waned in me, as the Proverb teller says,
and evil impulses waxed.11
I did not fix the eye of my soul on the head of
my life, Christ,
who would have led me down the straight path.
For in trying to run too quickly, I dug myself in deeper.
In trying to reach the unreachable, I failed to reach my own level.
In pretending to greatness, I slipped from where I was.
From the heavenly path, I sank to the abyss.12
Trying to avoid harm, I was permanently debilitated.
Trying to be completely pure, I was
I dodged to the left, and left myself open from the right.
Chasing the second, I lost the first.
Seeking the insignificant, I forfeited the important.
Keeping the small vow, I broke the covenant.
Trying to break a habit, I picked up a vice.
Avoiding the petty, I fell prey to the weighty.
What I did, I did to myself,
which is the worst testimony against me.
Only you are able to deliver me, a captive slave,
from these things,
restoring to life a soul devoted to death.
For you alone, Lord Christ, revered doer of good,
with the boundless glory of the Father and
the Holy Spirit are
blessed forever and ever.
1. Ps 94,16 (Arm 93):16 (Armenian version).
2. Mt 6,12 Mt 6,14-15.
3. Mt 5,44.
4. Ps 140,5 (Arm 139):5.
5. Ps 40,12 (Arm 39):12.
6. Commentators differ on the identity of this reference. Some cite evidence from Davit Anhaght that these lines refer to Plato and his dialogue Phaedo. Others believe it is based on a citation from Eghishe, History of the War of Vartan, p. 14). Critical Edition, p. 1063, n. 4.
7. Jb 3,22.
8. Gn 8,21.
9. Rm 7,9-11.
10. Jb 17,2 (Armenian version).
11. Pr 30,2-3.
12. Is 14,13-15.
Gregory Narek - Prayers - Prayer 50