Gregory Narek - Prayers - Prayer 16

Prayer 16

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Yours alone, God, in heaven, exalted and generous,
yours is the power, and yours, forgiveness.
Yours is healing and yours, abundance.
Yours are the gifts and yours alone grace.
Yours atonement and yours protection.
Yours is creation beyond knowing.
Yours are arts beyond discovery.
Yours are bounds beyond measure.
You are the beginning and you are the end.
Since the light of your mercy is never obscured
by the darkness of indignity,
you are not subject to disease in any form.
You are too lofty for words, an image beyond framing,
whose being is immeasurable,
the breadth of whose glory is unbounded,
the reach of whose incisive power is indescribable,
the supremacy of whose absoluteness is uncontainable,
the compassion of whose good works is unflagging.

You turned, according to the Prophet,1
the shadow of death into dawn.
You willingly descended into Tartaros,
the prison of those detained below,
where even the door of prayer was sealed
to free the captive and damned souls
with the commanding sword of
your victorious word.

You cut the bindings of wretched death
and dispelled the suspicion of sin.2
Turn toward me, trembling in the confines
of my squalid cell,3 fettered by sin,
mortally wounded by the Troublemaker’s arrows.

B Remember me, Lord of all, benefactor,
light in the darkness, treasure of blessing,
merciful, compassionate, kind, mighty,
powerful beyond telling, understanding, or words,
equal to all crises, you who are, in the words
of Jacob, always ready to do the impossible.4
O fire that clears away sin’s underbrush,
blazing ray that illumines every
great mystery, remember me, blessed one,5
with mercy rather than legalisms,
with forbearance rather than vengeance,
with lenience rather than evidence,
so that you weigh my sins with your kindness
and not with judgment.
For by the first, my burden is light,
but by the second, I am damned forever.

C Now, cure me, O kindness,
even as you did the ear of the one
who attacked you.6
Take away the whipping winds of death
from this sinner, so that the calm of
your almighty spirit might rest in me.
Unto you all glory, now and forever.

1. Am 5,8.
2. Za 9,11.
3. Jr 38,6.
4. Gn 35,1.
5. He 4,12, Sg 24,25.
6. Lc 22,51.

Prayer 17

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Now, tormented by bitter grief I pray
to you, keeper of imperiled souls.
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.

D Grant me forgiveness, with the word of your judgment,
even as you forgave the debt
of 500 dinars in the case of the prostitute,
God of goodness, Lord of bliss.
The more you bestow, the greater your glory.
The more you give, the more you are loved.
The more your mercy, the more your greatness.
For all your benevolence, you are rightly praised.
Though Lord of all, you came to us as our equal.
Though possessing everything, you weigh by
our measure.
Though you have gifts beyond telling,
you accept our skimpy payment.
And to the account of mortals, you grant
unlimited credit. Your generosity is sublime,
yet not too high to receive our meager praise.
Show the same compassion to me with my
countless debts so that I might
in expressing gratitude for your gifts
also commemorate your love.
To you glory in all things.

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

Prayer 18

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

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.

C In your name, Almighty,
I extend the shriveled arm of my soul
so you will make it whole as before,1
as in the garden of Eden,
when it reached to pick fruit of the tree of life.
The misery of my incorrigible soul,2
bound up, infirm, bent over,
is like the stricken woman in the Gospel,
bowed by sin, her gaze on the ground
in Satan’s tyrannical chains,
kept from your heavenly blessing.

Turn your ear toward me, last hope of mercy
and raise this humbled, fallen, dried up,
thinking piece of wood,
to make it blossom in piety,
as foretold in the words of the holy prophet.3

D Like one without light, blind from birth,
I do not have vision to look upon your face, O creator,
almighty and compassionate, my only protector.
If you turn the caring gaze of your immeasurable love
upon my breathing speaking vessel,
you could rekindle, out of nothing,
the light of being within me.

Like the wretched woman in the Gospels,
afflicted by evils for twelve years,4
I bleed with rivers of infirmity.
Look down upon me from on high
cloaked in blinding light,
where sewn clothing does not exist,
but everything is covered in mighty miracles.

E Condemned as I am, I do not approach
the soles of your life-giving feet
to anoint them with oil 5
or offer to wash them with my
tear-drenched hair. But rather, a true believer,
I kiss the earth, with pure faith,
hands reaching up, sighing with streaming tears,
begging for the healing of my soul,
a soul wasted by shortcomings,
dissipated by weakness.

F And these two feet, means of motion,
foundation of my body’s structure,
now lame and unsteady,
vanquished by evil,
impede my ascent to the tree of life-giving fruit.
May you again inhabit them, my only hope of cure.
And the organ of glorification with which you endowed
me, whose voice when moved by the magnanimity of
your mercy used to turn back the breath of the
Troublemaker, silencing him,
may you miraculously restore your living word to me,
so I might speak again without faltering,6
like the one you healed in the Gospel.

G I lie here on a cot struck down by evil,
sinking in disease and torment,
like the living dead yet able to speak.
O kind Son of God,
have compassion upon my misery.
Hear the sobbing of my agitated voice.
Bring me back to life
with the dew of your blessed eyes
as you brought back your friend from breathless death.7
In a dungeon of infirmities, I am captive, bitter and
in doubt.
Give me your hand, sun that casts no shadows, Son on
high, and lift me into your radiant light.

H Like the pitiful, wailing voice of the widow Nain,
mourning her only son,
fingers trembling, chest heaving,8
tears streaming down her face paralyzed with grief,
I beg with my last sighing breath: Grant me,
who has lost hope, your comfort and pity.
Teach me not to moan and protest like a prisoner,
kind and praiseworthy creator of the universe,
but rather, like the young man you brought back to life,
who comforted his grieving mother,
may I too receive from you
a second chance for my condemned soul.

I You took pity, O Savior of all,
even on demon-possessed brutes,9
and those unfortunates, stoned, beaten, and deformed,
with their unkempt, knotted hair
and their wild faces, raving in delirium.
Like them, I petition you,
turn back the legions of evil defiling
your sanctuary within me
so that when your Spirit arrives
your goodness might dwell here
and fill my body with your cleansing breath,
bringing lucidity to my reeling mind.

J Like souls banished to hell,
I am held captive by illness.
Let your light dawn in radiant rays of mercy
upon my torture to rescue me
from the clutches of the sickness
tearing me apart.

The infirmities that cause disease
traveling invisible paths, secretly lying in wait,
straying from the ordained ways with
malicious purposes –
all torment my soul.10
Hidden from examination, the
malignant growth proceeds
with the poisonous work of the Evil-doer.
With your strength which knows no equal,
Son of God, heal me so that I might live.

With your almighty hand pluck out
the harvest of destruction
that the various mortal illnesses,
each dressed in its own way, produce.
Pluck out the evil roots
sprouted upon the field of my unruly body
with your mighty hand
that plows and cultivates the plots of our souls
so they may bear the fruit of the gospel of life.

K And because the torments of my infirmities
surpass even these examples,
which like a spreading cancer,
have touched all the parts of my body,
there is no salve as there was none for Israel,11
for my innumerable sores.
Every part of my body from head to toe12
is unhealthy and beyond the help of physicians.
But you, merciful, beneficent, blessed,
long-suffering, immortal king,
hear the prayers of my embattled heart for mercy,
when I cry to you, “Lord,”
in my time of need.13

1. Mt 12,10-13.
2. Lc 13,11-13.
3. Ez 17,24.
4. Mt 9,20-21 Mc 5,25-29.
5. Lc 7,37-38.
6. Mc 7,35.
7. Jn 11,3.
8. Lc 7,11-15.
9. Mc 5,5.
10. Lc 14,2.
11. Sg 16,12 Is 1,6.
12. Is 1,6.
13. Jon 2,3.

Prayer 19

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Hear, all-seeing vision of hope and goodness of life,
the profuse sighs of my hurting soul,
unreachable greatness, fearful name, living word,
longed for message, delectable taste,
worshipful calling, confessed beneficence,
sweet perception, professed reality,
glorious essence, blessed existence,
Lord Christ, praised and worshiped with your Father
and exalted and proclaimed with the Holy Spirit,
who alone became human like us for our sakes,
so that you might make us like you for your sake,
light unto all, merciful, almighty and
heavenly in all ways,
I pray that with your divine miracle-working power,
compassionate God, you restore this,
my collapsing broken earthen vessel.
And I pray that you recast the image you gave me,
worn by sin,
in the lightning crucible of your word.
Cleanse the temple of my body,
the vessel of my soul,
the altar of your repose,
as your dwelling place,
I pray you, O doer of good.
Do not repay my evil deeds with evil.
I am drunk, in the words of the prophet,1 but not
with wine. Empty out the dregs of iniquity
from my stupefying cup of death. And by the command
of your salvation, giver of all life,
let me with the last drop of your cup2
be spared on the day of judgment.

B You are just in your law
and triumphant in your judgment.3
If you hand down a death sentence,
your action is right.
If you reprimand before giving a stern condemnation,
your decision is just.
If you cast me into the abyss
or still the movement of life,
if you silence my power of speech,
or darken the windows of my eyes,
if you check my joy in life,
or impair my ability to be nourished by ordinary food,
if you reduce the richness of my days,
or make drops of fire fall along with the dew drops,
if you starve me by your silence,4
or shut the doors of my ears,
if you cut off the bounty of your grace,
or make the earth move under my feet,
if you shut off the light of your countenance
for which I yearn, or expel me from
this world completely,
if you terrify me with a lightening bolt,
or condemn me to incurable pain,
if you betray me to the demons of evil,
or chew me up in the jaws of beasts,
if you blow me away in billowing anger,
or invent some new torture,
more evil than Tartaros,
more severe than Gehenna,
more vile than maggots,
more anguishing than darkness,
more terrifying than the abyss,
more pitiful than nakedness,
I will testify against myself that
I deserve these and more.

C And since the punishments always match
the sins they are for,
like mirror images, identical,
parallel, emblematic of the wrong,
it is important to confess
and lift the veil from my face
to one who seeks to know me.
For as I did not tend the needs of
my fellow man with warm charity,
it is right that I freeze with fear
at the first sign of danger.

And since I did not check my willful pride,
it is fair that I should be consumed with
unbridled disgrace.

And since I did not love the light
of the good news, it is just
that I should be condemned to grope
in the darkness of ignorance and fog of perdition.

And since I paid no heed to small faults,
considering them harmless, it is fitting
for me to be wounded by the stings of insects.

And since I did not lend a helping hand
to those in danger, it is proper for me
to be cast into a pit of filth.

D But evil is not from your Godly bounty,
source of all good, and darkness
is not from your radiant light.
And temptation is not
part of your protection. No, I found these myself
like a destructive child.
And the mounting sins of my iniquity have justified
your anger. As the good book warns5
I became the servant of the prince
of iniquity, giving him your place.

E And since the scandal,
the most private secret, has been uncovered6
and its shamefulness leaves a mark
upon my face. I show myself, as in
the parable of the prophet, in complete
offensiveness like a naked prostitute.7

Rekindle your light of atonement in me,
heavenly king, so that
shaking off the dust of sin,
my soul can stand upright like the
people returning from Babylon,
having heard the voice of good tidings.
And I will be able to sit up again,
on the firm foundation of your unshakable hope.
In the words of the prophet Isaiah,8
I shall be clothed in my former purity
by your mighty hand, for the sweetness
of your all-giving divinity and your great glory.
Blessed forever.

1. Is 29,9 Is 51,21.
2. Is 51,22.
3. Ps 50,6, Rm 3,4.
4. Am 8,11.
5. Qo 10,4.
6. Col 3,5.
7. Na 3,5-6.
8. Is 52,1.

Prayer 20

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Lord, O Lord, who bears no grudges,
tolerant, forgiving, compassionate, powerful,
and merciful,
behold, your actions rest on truth,
your judgment upon confessions,
your decisions upon sound testimony,
O seer of the unseen. Like the three
fortunate youths who were tested by the caustic fires
of Babylon but were unharmed,
I groan a mournful refrain,
“I have sinned. I am lawless. I have done wrong.
I have been indicted and I have not heeded
your commandments.”1
They being innocent of any wrong
cried out this confession, while I am rightly
condemned to death and have yet more reason
to plead even as Daniel,
the blessed holy prophet,
who was of your true lineage
and the chosen branch of the house of Judah.
To his words and prayers of commitment that
were acceptable to you, I add my cries
for punishment and humiliation.

B Knowing full well what was improper,
I strayed from the path,
sinning in all ways in all things,
I fled from the balancing bounds
of your will. And this is
the characteristic profile of base
lawlessness that I practiced and
perfected till my wrongdoing knew
no limits. Is this not the very image
of criminality? You admonished
but I was shameless. You entreated
but I took no heed. Both are flagrant signs
of rebellion.

C You clothed yourself in righteousness,
O doer of good, and prepared
shame and humiliation for me.
For you, fitting glory,
for me, deserving insult.
For you, sweetness immemorial,
for me, vinegary bile.
For you, praise that cannot be silenced,
for me, weeping laments.
For you, songs of blessing rising with incense,
for me, the alienation of exile.
For you, all rights justly deserved,
for me, every worrisome debt.
For you, exaltation and praise beyond words,
for me, the abject punishment of eating dust.

D And you, O splendid goodness beyond measure,
you received our offering with sweet frankincense
fitting to you, while
I received my portion of censure compounded
by aggravating circumstances.
For if the innocent prayed to you in this way,
what apology shall I weave in my guilt, I who have
faltered more basely than anyone?
I have strayed down wayward paths in my
undisciplined mind.
In my everyday speech I have been brazen.
I have been obsessed by shameful deeds.
I have become puffed up and haughty.
I have become arrogant and conceited
though I will soon be lowered into the earthly grave.
I want to make a deal
though I cannot even give my breath as collateral.

E I, breathing dust, have grown haughty.
I, talking clay, have become presumptuous.
I, filthy dirt, have grown proud.
I, disgusting ashes, have risen up,
raising my hands with my broken cup,2 strutting
like a swaggering peacock, but then
curling back into myself, as if rejected,
my speaking slime glowing with anger
I grew arrogant, as if I were immortal,
I, who face the same death as the four-legged creatures.
I embraced the love of pleasure
and instead of facing you, turned my back.
In flights of fancy I darted into lurid thought.
Indulging my body I wore out my soul.
In strengthening the sinister side
I weakened the force of my right side.
I saw your concern for me, too deep for words,
and paid no heed.

F As Hosea wrote of Ephraim,3 I rushed
toward my former ways like a wild fowl.
In my sanctuary I was immersed in my worldly
preoccupations and I did not halt the meandering
horse of my mind with the reins of rationality.
I added to my former wrong doings with new
inventions. Like Job,4 I made my heavy yoke
even more unbearable. Like Jeremiah,5
I became like a rotten cloth, and, as the preacher6 said,
my name is erased from the book of mankind
like a stillborn child. And as Isaiah7 said,
I have become soiled like the napkin of the
menstruating woman and I am shattered and
unmendable like a ceramic bowl.8 Like the Edomite
chastised by the prophet, I have prepared myself
for a squalid end9 as the fourth penalty for
my lawlessness. And it would be no lie were I to add
that abandoning my inheritance in heaven I even built
a tabernacle to the demon Moloch,10 even fashioned
an idol in the form of the Babylonian Star
of Rephan like the one the Israelites had in the Sinai, 11
so that my legacy should be hell.

G And now with the license of my original grace revoked
I have changed, I am dispossessed, I am exiled,
I am banished, I am separated and irreparably cut off.
Now, accept me, O Lord, and renew the impression of
your image on my soul, I who am unworthy of life,
a capital felon, evil person,
a fallen being trampled by Satan,
a terminal patient at death’s door,
depraved and unworthy of your calling,
defeated with one blow, wanderer, exile and outlaw,
a doubter, wretch, reject, battered, shattered,
broken, wounded, dejected, embattled soul.

H And again, O compassionate Lord who loves mankind,
almighty God, as you consider these words of pleading,
treat them as a confession from a contrite soul
fallen at your feet in repentance.
And as you judge, note and weigh
the tearful soul, the heaving sighs,
the quivering lips, the dry tongue,
the clenched face, the good will in the depth of the heart,
you who are the salvation of humanity,
the seer of the undone, the creator of all,
the healer of invisible wounds,
the defender of the hopeful and the guardian of all,
to you glory forever and ever.

1. Da 3,29-30 Da 9,5.
2. Jr 51,7-8.
3. Os 9,11.
4. Jb 40,21.
5. Jr 13,7.
6. Qo 6,3-4.
7. Is 64,6.
8. Is 30,14.
9. Am 1,11.
10. Am 5,25-26 Ac 7,42-43.
11. Am 5,25-26 Ac 7,42-43.

Prayer 21

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Since I of my own will mortgaged myself to death,
never standing as a man on my own two feet,
and never having received a rational soul,
as the Bible says,1
I did not turn away from my former sinful ways
to travel the path of goodness.
Why should I not begin this chapter
by disclosing my wayward tracks toward darkness?
So I shall adapt my writing to this purpose
without changing my earlier testimony,
and confess again the rest of the evil
stains upon me.

B Deserving the punishment of a foreign mercenary
I joined the army of Beliar by my acts of obstinacy.
Swept off by the agile dances, gleeful stunts,
and foolery of the slithering demons,
ingenious deceivers, I wallowed in my sloth,
and in the chambers of the fallen, I took comfort
in secret floggings and invisible wounds instead of
warding off these outcasts with Christ’s cross.
No, I willingly joined them
with no reason other than my miserable lawlessness.
Your name, O Jesus, was profaned among the demons,
as it was among the Gentiles for the sake of Israel.
The vices I planted in myself blow by wicked blow
like thieves and evil spirits
ate away at the flower of my soul like corrosive rust.
Like caterpillars and locusts,
as the saintly prophet Joel2 described
in his terrifying lament about the land of Israel.
Indeed, I cultivated rather than uprooted them,
recruiting throngs of warriors armed
with deadly weapons.
I collected them in my soul and
nurtured those that goaded me toward
lawlessness and iniquity,
I strengthened my enemies so that they
became invincible,
I took bitterness as my portion instead of your
sweet sustenance,
always deceitful toward the Creator,
and faithful to the Deceiver.

C How dare I raise my voice in appeal,
considering the wretchedness of my plight,
the anguish of my peril,
the shadow of my shame,
the darkness of my humiliation?
The voice of doom is overwhelming
and the cry of my protests unbearable.
And if I could see my soul,
deformed, shriveled, wasted away,
I would sob yet more painfully in
extreme embarrassment
at the disgusting, ashen color of its baseness,
like a minion at a pagan temple.
For becoming a slave to sin is the same
as worshiping a stone idol.

D Since I have traveled the path of destruction
pursuing the footprints of darkness,
like the priests of Israel scolded by the prophet, and
since I have traded your plot of paradise for
a barren desert,3
how can I call myself human,
when I have earned a place among the inhuman?
How can I be named a thinking being,
when I indulge in brutish ways?
How can I be called a seeing being,
when I have snuffed out my inner light?
How can I be known as cognizant,
when I have slammed the door on wisdom?
How can I aspire to incorruptible grace,
when with my own hand I have slain my soul?4
Indeed I lack attributes of a moving or even
breathing being,
let alone one capable of spiritual, thoughtful life.

E Chipped among the set of plates,
defective among the stones of the wall,
disdained among the ranks of the called,
lowest of the tribe of the elect,
weakest among those fearful of death,
most dejected with the pain of Jerusalem,
as mournful as Jeremiah’s words,5
“My days have been wasted in wailing,
and the course of my years in crying.”
In the songs of the musician,6

“Like wool eaten by moths, like wood
chewed up by worms.”
In the words of the wiseman,7
“My heart was consumed by suspicion.”
In the words of the Psalmist,8
“I unravelled like a spiderweb,
and became useless.”
In the words of the prophet,9
“I have disappeared, evaporated like the morning cloud and the dew at dawn.”

F I do not put my hope in mankind,
for I would be cursed by the evil eye10
and falter in despair.
Rather I place my faith in you, my Lord,
who loves our souls.
You, who even at the hour
you were nailed to the cross
overflowed with boundless compassion,
and beseeched your Father on high
to take mercy on your tormentors.
Now grant me hope of atonement, life and refuge,
so that when I take my last breath
I might receive from you a healed soul.
To you with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
all power, victory, majesty and glory forever.

1. Da 7,4.
2. Jl 1,4.
3. Jr 12,10.
4. Sg 22,23.
5. Jr 6,6-7.
6. Ps 30,11.
7. Pr 25,20.
8. Ps 38,12.
9. Os 13,3.
10. Jr 17,5.

Prayer 22

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A And now I continue to accuse my cursed soul
in different terms confessing all my
undisclosed evil doings so that perhaps
the all-knowing might record in my favor
these anguished words of penitence and contrition.

B My body, the grievous tormentor of my soul,
wounded, untreatable, beyond care or recovery,1
is like a talking horse with a callous mouth,
breaking my reins and shaking off my bit,
a surly, wild and incorrigible colt,
an untame, recalcitrant, and stubborn2 heifer,
a homeless man, banished and lost,
a street urchin, roguish and impudent,
a boss, deserving mortal punishment,
unfaithful and indolent,
an intelligent person, turned beastly and unclean,
an abandoned olive tree, barren and dry,
a string of imperial gold coins, wasted and forfeited,
a delinquent servant, runaway and wretched.3

C I am of no use to you at all, Lord,
for I am willingly self-destructive of soul and body,
and remain spiritually lost and mentally deluded,
with a twisted will4 and broken heart,5
absent-minded and stagnant-brained,
numb and drained,
brazen and disagreeable,
besieged by inflammations,
wracked by fatal sickness.
I pity the womb that bore me and
bemoan the breasts that fed me, asking
why was their milk not curdled with bile?
Why was the sweetness that nurtured me not
mixed with bitterness?

D And because I have risen against myself
with words like a harsh prosecutor
and have even taken up the sword
of righteous anger that cannot be sheathed,
who among the earth-born will plead for me?
I shall confess every scandalous detail.
I shall submit my being to judgment.
I shall beat down the army of destruction.
I shall prosecute the marauders wounding me.
I have sinned in everything and in all ways.
Have mercy upon me, O compassionate God.
It is no new thing to find me in the fog of iniquity.
I am always the same, breaking
the same commandments and appearing
before you unreformed, stumbling
in an unmendable garment.
And only you, O truly compassionate and blessed,
with your love of mankind and your
unwavering forgiveness
can speed my escape from Satan6
who stands beside me.

E Now, O caregiving, mighty, heavenly, kind,
creator of all out of nothing,
send the thunderbolt7 of wisdom in powerful words,
upon the movements of my tongue
that it might cleanse the senses
with which you endowed me,
so that with the faculties you created and
fixed a second time,
I might offer thanks to you
with unfailing voice and unbroken speech.
For the glory of the majesty of your Father,
our God, forever.

1. Lc 10,30.
2. Gn 12,6.
3. Mt 25,26-30.
4. Jg 5,6; Sg 2,15 Sg 4,24 Sg 16,30 Sg 27,6; Si 4,1; Jb 9,20; Is 27,1; 1P 2,18; Ph 2,15.
5. 2M 7,39.
6. Za 3,1-3.
7. Is 6,6-7.

Prayer 23

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Lord God of all, able to do anything,
all-encompassing space, unbounded, unlimited,
close to all with your very essence,
nowhere, yet without you there are no bounds,
invisible, yet without the light of your dawn
nothing is visible,
awesome glory, incomprehensible name,
voice of majesty, sound of the infinite,
essence beyond analysis,
unreachable distance, immediate closeness,
who notes gentleness and sees distress,
stands by grief and can cure all hopeless cases,
Father of compassion who spreads mercy,
God of comfort.

B Look with mercy, O Lord, on my anguish,
on the many symptoms of dread afflictions
I set out before you.
Treat me like a physician, rather than examining
me like a judge.
Indeed I am overwhelmed by anxieties
caused by vacillation and doubt.
When the body is weakened by malady,
when the soul is not fortified against evil,
when the senses are paralyzed by passion,
the members of the body wallow in desire,
the heart’s wisdom is wounded by remorse,
the expectation of good is abandoned,
and despite the ability to think,
man sinks to the level of beasts.1
His existence becomes enmeshed with disgust
even while appearing outwardly whole,
his intellect frays within.
Remembering the graveness of his mistakes,
he falls into despair
tormented by past deeds and constantly worried.
The clarity of prayer becomes clouded
as he smolders in the fires of conscience.
At work, although his hand stays on the plough,
his mind keeps turning over the past.2
Walking forward, his feet drag back.
Knowing the essential, he is consumed by irrelevancies.
In battles of the mind, he is always defeated by details.
And the door of his voice box is charred by the burning of his heart.
Everywhere sunless fog rises from damp whims
enshrouding everything and blocking the grasp of hope.
His senses are branded with unbearable pain.
His mind is obsessed by the misfortune of perdition
and retribution occupies the tribunal of his thought.
His tender eye fills with anger.
Bright spirits disfavor my earthen vessel
and I am worthy of being stoned to death with
stones of justice.
With terror my meager nature collides with yours
as your thundering words scatter my
thought-bearing ashes.
Like a prodigal son I have wasted the talent given me,3
and like the useless servant I buried the
honorable gifts received.4
The fruits of my labor are covered with the
darkness of sloth,
and fade like the afterglow of a candle when
it is taken away.
My tongue, having lost the right to respond, is dumb.
My twisted lips have been justly silenced.
My mind whirls with anxiety
unable to concentrate
too stupefied to weigh and choose what is right.
The path of deliverance is blocked
by the wreckage of evil,
and the lamp of my soul5 is filled only with ash.
The letters of my name have been scratched from the book of life,6
and blame is written in the place of blessing.

C If I see a soldier, I expect death,
a messenger, punishment,
a clerk, foreclosure,
a jurist, condemnation,
an evangelist, the shaking of the dust off his feet,7
a pious person, reprimand,
a snob, sarcasm,
If I am put to trial by water, I will drown8
If I take a remedy for my condemnation, I will die.
At the mere sight of the harvest of goodness, I recoil remembering my evil.
If a hand is raised, I take cover.
At the least trifle, I tremble.
At the slightest sound, I flinch.
If I am invited to join in a toast, I quiver.
If I am scolded, I cower.
If I am called for questioning, I mumble.
If I am interrogated, I become dumb.

D Now, all these pitiful doubts, heaped upon each another,
in the unconscious depths and inner chambers of my heart’s being,
stifle me, piercing my heart with invisible arrows,
unextractable, permanently lodged in my soul,
filling it with pus forewarning
a dreadful death.
With each breath I draw,
the ulcers and rust from these buried secrets,
locked away in iron, cause pain.
The cry of my voice strangled by these torments,
I offer to heaven, mixed with tears and the sobbing grief of my soul,
O doer of good, for whom everything is possible,
along with the prayers of other earth-bound sufferers.
With them I offer up my last sigh
and tears here on earth,
so that you will grant a calm peace to me,
a pitiful laborer engaged in vain earthly pursuits.
Eternal glory to you,
who are all in all through all.

1. Ps 48,13 Ps 48,21.
2. Lc 9,62.
3. Lc 15,11.
4. Lc 19,20.
5. Lc 11,36.
6. Ex 32,33.
7. Mt 10,14.
8. NM 5,16-22.

Gregory Narek - Prayers - Prayer 16