Gregory Narek - Prayers - Prayer 56

Prayer 56

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A As for the agents of death,
the roots of the bitter fruit of the tree of damnation,
hostile kin, intimate adversaries, traitorous sons, I now
shall describe them in detail by name.
They are
my sinister heart,
my gossiping mouth,
my lustful eyes,
my wanton ears,
my murderous hands,1
my weak kidneys,
my wayward feet,
my swaggering gait,
crooked footprints,
polluted breath,
dark inclinations,
dried innards,
mushy mind,
inconstant will,
incorrigible depravity,
wavering virtue,
banished soul,
dissipated legacy,
wounded beast,
arrow-struck bird,
fugitive on the precipice,
apprehended criminal,
drowning pirate,
treasonous soldier,
reluctant fighter,
undisciplined warrior,
slovenly laborer,
faithless worshiper,
worldly cleric,
impious priest,
officious minister,
haughty clerk,
deranged sage,
grotesque rhetorician,
immodest manner,
shameless countenance,
insolent grimace,
repulsive tone,
subhuman mold,
lurid beauty,
rotting meat,
sickening flavor,
weed-choked orchard,
worm-eaten vine,2
garden of briars,
rusted ear of corn,
mouse-infested honey,
threadbare outcast,
haughty desperado,
closed-minded heretic,
irreconcilable sectarian,
fast-talking charlatan,
herd mentality blowhard,
brutishly wicked, hellishly greedy,
unashamedly arrogant,
frenzied atheist, assassin ready to strike,
sower of thorns, woeful contentment,
debased majesty, defiled splendor, wasted ability,
humbled greatness, trampled glory,
persistent disobedience, willful error,
negligent steward, treacherous adviser, alienated friend,
corrupt official, covetous associate,
stingy boss, crooked supervisor,
soul without compassion, wish without charity,
hateful habit, insatiable appetite,3
imprudent actions, invisible damage,
secret curses, antagonizing events,
careless merchant, gluttonous exploiter,
drunken official, duplicitous treasure warden,4
dissension sowing emissary, sleeping doorman,
proud beggar, rich ingrate,5
dishonest secretary, untrustworthy custodian,
back-biting relatives,6
tardy messenger, wayward courier,
vexing envoy, foolish mediator,7
banished ruler, feeble king, broken-spirited emperor,
rogue prince, plundering general,
biased judge, capricious rabble,
for enemies – cause for snickering,
for friends – cause for tears,
for writers – cause for reproach,
for adversaries – cause for accusation.
For though I was indeed called by the highest names,
by my works I earned the worst of these descriptions.8
Thus, these are the multitude of seductive devices,
which I allowed to deceive me in my naivet? or
I allowed to prevail over me in my weakness,
condemning myself willfully to death.

B Now, which of the things listed above,
abhorrent to you and devastating for me,
shall I offer in service to you?
Which of these things wrapped in corruption
shall I present before your holy majesty?
For how long will your patience
bear this many sins?
How much will you forgive?
How will you remain silent?
How will you even bear to listen?
How can you spare the rod
when I am worthy of being beaten to death?
But you visit the mercy of your light
in the pitch blackness of the dark side of the soul,
to cure, pardon and give us life.
O force that cannot be deterred,
to you glory in all things,

1. Is 1,15.
2. Dt 28,39.
3. Pr 12,10; Rm 1,30.
4. Lc 12,45.
5. Si 25,2.
6. Ps 50,20 (Arm 49):20.
7. Ac 15,24.
8. From the General Confession, “I was called to the profession of Christianity, but was found unworthy of it by my deeds.”

Prayer 57

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

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.”

Prayer 58

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Lord Jesus, blessed with the Father,
by favor of your Holy Spirit and
all who are blessed through your blessedness,1
blessed only son of the blessed,
no other king other than you, Christ, rules
over my breath.
As the prophet Isaiah said,
the blessing of Jacob will come when I
lift away his sins.2
Now, have mercy upon me, Lord, with lovingkindness,
as you did in the past
and bless me, your speaking, thinking vessel,
as you did the voice of David and Moses,3
by the visitation of your word of salvation.
May I receive pardon with your blessing.
Merciful heavenly ruler,
work a miracle upon me divinely,
as you did for those gathered in the hall in Bethesda,4
who were bedridden for many years.
Among them was a person,5
a paralytic who had been stricken for thirty-eight years,
whom you did not refuse to heal by laying on of hands,
even when knowing of the incurable malice
that awaited you on the day of your betrayal,6
on the bitter night of the battle against the Lord,
our assurance, great and beneficent.

B Lord, though you admonished him,
“Do not sin so that nothing worse befalls you.”7
But that did not deter him from being one of the first
of the cruel accusers to condemn you to the cross.
And for such a crippled, bewitched, ill-fated man,
brought to his knees by death, you took pity.
Lord, you are goodness beyond telling,
wonder-filled human kindness,
astonishing forgiveness, perplexing forbearance,
unending sweetness, glorious mildness.
You, over whom compassion prevails, but
do not feel restrained.
You are overwhelmed by mercy, but are not blamed.
You are constrained by human kindness, but
are not disdained.
You are compelled by goodness, but are not cursed.
You act out of love, but are not ridiculed.
You seek my return to you, but do not grow weary.
You run after me in my obstinacy, but do not give up.
You call out to me though I do not listen, but
do not lose patience.
You rush after me in my sloth and are not stopped.
In the face of my evil, you are good.
In the face of my total indebtedness, you are forgiving.
In the face of my sinfulness, you are indulgent.
In the face of my darkness, you are light.
In the face of my mortality, you are life.

C This is the message of all the books inspired for
our benefit,
which often bear heavenly fruits, indescribable
and amazing.8
Say to me also, wretched soul that I am, Lord, blessed and revered in all ways,
“Arise, take the bed of your infirmity, the place of
your destruction, and go to the tranquil repose of
the life without toil.”9
Sever, with the omnipotent sword of your
commanding word,
the wrappings of the grave that hold me in the
bonds of the underworld.10
Release me from the strangling noose that brutally demands my soul.
Deliver those deserving death to the liberation of
unending bliss on high
by your life-giving and divine word.
Do not hesitate, do not delay day by day,
so the heavy burden of sin does not break my back,
and destroy me, bend me downward, looking to hell,11
so that the haughty one with tyrannical violence
disarms my spiritual defenses and turns me into
a slave of death.
Come to my aid, good Lord who suffered
with us the pangs of death’s torment.12
Having lifted from me the cross of perdition,
as you did once from the shoulder of the guard,13
to erect the fitting monument to your courageous might,
with steadfast faith and unshakable hope to be nailed to you inseparably.
To you with the Father and the Holy Spirit, glory and dominion, forever.

1. Gn 22,18.
2. Is 27,9.
3. Ps 67,2 (Arm 66):2, NM 6,24.
4. Jn 5,3.
5. Jn 5,15.
6. Jn 5,3.
7. Jn 5,14.
8. 2Tm 3,16.
9. Lc 5,18-24 Jn 5,8.
10. Jn 11,43-44.
11. Lc 13,10-17.
12. He 4,15.
13. Mt 27,32.

Prayer 59

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A I believe and bear witness in sound mind,
through the insights of my soul and
the visions of my conscience inspired by you,
that for you, doer of good, the prayers of a sinner are
more desirable than the petitions of the just.
For the first, baring the defeated soul, awaits your grace
and being well acquainted with the limits of
human nature,
rises up like a stern accuser,
a combatant bent on self-mortification,
a bitter critic and prosecutor who sees secrets.1
Whereas the second, looking upon his good works,
places the hand of confidence on his soul,
forgets the limitations of his nature
and awaits rewards, rather than mercy.2
For that reason, the first is the subject of
innumerable accounts trumpeting your mercy,
and the second has been passed over in silence,
O inscrutable, awesome, and all-caring Lord!
I shudder at the thought that my accounts,
the accounts of a mere mortal go too far.3
So come Lord, do not let the gestures of a human hand
seem grander than yours.
Do not let your mercies be meted out in mortal measure.

B But those who have healthy organs are not in need of
a physician’s care,4
and those who with good vision have no need of a guide,
and those who are well off do not beg at
the doors of the wealthy,
and those who are well fed do not wait for crumbs of bread from the table,5
and those who lead a saintly life are not needy of mercy,
so heavenly Lord almighty on high, take mercy on me,
a tormented wretch,
for if I were like Job,
I would say my soul was upright and pure like his.6
And if I were like Moses,
I would confidently say with him,
“The Lord recognizes his own.” 7
And if I were like David, I would say,
“I have done judgment and justice.” 8
And again in words that exceed our physical nature:
“If I see sin in my heart, may the Lord not hear me.” 9
If I were like Elijah, I would call myself a man of God.10
If I were like Jeremiah, I would emulate your truth
in my soul.11 If I were like Hezekiah, I would proudly
say, with justification, “I walked before you
with righteousness.”12
Or if I were like Paul, I would call myself
the dwelling place, oracle and receiver of God’s word.13

C But I, lawless despite knowing the law,
not only cannot present my soul to you,
with respectful words like them, I cannot even
mention myself, who am totally corrupt,
to you in the same breath as these good souls,
for my impious tongue is not worthy to utter your name
praised by all creation.
But you, who are capable of everything,
grant me the spirit of salvation,
the sheltering right arm,
the helping hand,
the command of goodness,
the light of mercy,
the word of renewal,
the cause of pardon,
and help of the staff of life.
For you are the hope of refuge, Lord Jesus Christ,
blessed with the Father and Holy Spirit,
forever and ever.

1. Lc 18,13.
2. Lc 18,9 Lc 18,11.
3. Lc 18,12.
4. Mc 2,17.
5. Mt 15,27.
6. Jb 33,9.
7. NM 16,5.
8. Ps 119,121 (Arm 118):121.
9. Ps 66,18 (Arm 65):18.
10. 2R 1,9-10.
11. Jr 11,19 (Jeremiah is depicted as a lamb led to slaughter, in the manner of Christ).
12. 2R 20,3, Is 38,3.
13. Ga 2,20.

Prayer 60

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A Long ago I learned that blessings
should not come from the mouth of a sinner,1
therefore, how can I, even regretfully,
continue saying Psalms in worship
that earn only scorn for me?

How shall I praise my injuries and build monuments
to my disgrace while gathering thorns in my bare chest
instead of lilies?

How shall I dare to say with David:
“You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.”2
Or “The wicked shall dwell before your eyes.”3
Or “Judge me, Lord, according to your righteousness,
according to the integrity that is in me.”4
Or “Let wickedness be visited upon the sinful.”5
Or “Break the arms of the sinner and wicked,”6
and all that follows.
Or “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares,
fire and brimstone.”7
Or “The Lord shall cut off flattering lips and the boasting tongue.”8
Or “You have tested my heart and found no iniquity.”9
Or the next verse, “My steps have held fast
to your path.”10
Or “I shall behold thy face in righteousness.”11
Or “I was upright before him.”
Or the next verse, “The Lord paid me according to my righteousness and the cleanness of my hands.”12
Or how can I cover up my lies, yet say with the holy,
“I wash my hands in innocence.”13
Or wallowing in baseness brag, “I do not consort
with the impious.”14
Or proudly put on a happy face, pathetic though I am, and say, “Vindicate me, Lord, for I have
walked in integrity.”15
Or I, the stranger to goodness, beg you,
knower of secrets,
“Do not count my soul among the wicked.”16
Or when cursing others although I deserve cursing,
I dare say, “Requite them, Lord, according
to their works.”17
And shall I dare continue?

B If I should add to the previous verses,
my grief would double, my bitterness multiply.
My tears dammed up within me, daily seek
the comfort of the familiar scolding voice of the Psalms, accusing me.
If I add the last part of Psalm 50,18
which dooms me as abominable,
gags my speech and exposes my guilty soul
to the prosecuting voice of God,
hope of life is lost.

I am pelted from the ramparts by deadly missiles.
It is a misfortune to be cursed by others, but
it is worse to curse oneself. And if it is hard to be
reproached by friends, how much more chilling, 19
alarming and tormenting to be exposed before
the one who sees all.

But if one surrenders to humiliation and lashes
one’s soul with the reproaches of one’s own tongue,
one earns the blessings of the glorious and all-powerful
Lord for expressing one’s return to him
without covering the traces of the past,
for the sake of love he cut the root of our20
transgressions, undeterred by nay-sayers.
The sheep of Christ’s flock have found
the cure, the balm for their inner wounds.

Yet amidst green pastures blooming
with life-giving counsel, intelligent beings
irrationally and willfully choose
to graze in poisonous fields of delusion.

C And now, since this reprimand suits me exactly
and describes the evil situation
where I myself fuel the consuming fire
poured from on high upon my head,
the organ of thought.

What did I profit from the Psalms,
when I remained fruitless despite my repeated chants,
failing to sing with my soul as instructed by Paul?21
How shall I mix our Lord’s words with those
of the Prophet?
How can I, the greatest of sinners, the pinnacle
of neediness,
say with the Saint, “Get away, you workers
of iniquity”?22

Or how shall I, who has not fulfilled any of the multitude
of commandments relating to grace or the law,
cry with the happy man who has practiced all he preached, saying,
“For I, your servant, have kept these commandments”
and the words that follow?23

How shall I, who am devoid of life’s wisdom,
praise the Lord with the God-fearing?24

And how shall I add my prayer to that of the great one,
who said, “I sought but one thing from the Lord,
to behold his splendor and to serve in his temple”?25

How shall I seek what I am deprived of,
when I hear, “It is fitting to bless the upright”?26

How shall I curse my soul with my own lips, saying,
among other things, “The gaze of the Lord is
upon evil doers, whose memory shall be wiped
from the face of the earth”?27

Or again in another verse,
“The evil soon shall perish”?28

Or as in my case,
“The arms of the wicked shall be stricken”?29

Or how can I pray for my destruction,
“Behold how the sinners perish”?30

How shall I utter these blessed words with
my unruly tongue: “I shall guard my way so that
I do not sin with my tongue”?31

How shall I boast with the innocent when I choke
on thorns of sin: “But you have upheld me because of
my integrity”?32

How shall I, a sinner deserving double punishment,
complain: “Deliver me, O God, from deceitful and
unjust men”?33

D How shall I dare say with David,
as if I am not a hypocrite and idolator,
“Have we forgotten the name of our God,
or spread our hands in prayer to a strange god”?34
For only one laid low in the baseness of sin,
erects bestial statues and images,
inciting infidelity and harlotry such as the statues to
female Ashtoreth, Chemosh, the male Milcom,35 and
the vile Tharahad,36 with lewd, naked parts like donkeys.37

How then shall I not be ashamed to pray with the martyr
who always held fast to the good:
“For your sake we are slain all day long,”38
and the rest of this psalm?

How can I, the most foolish and perverse of humans,
say: “My mouth shall utter wisdom,
and my heart, understanding”?39

How can I, a flattering hypocrite, wish
for the bones of sycophants to be scattered?40

How shall I recall the twice-repeated blessing
of the Psalmist: “May I walk before God in the
land of the living”?41

How shall I with my countless sins say:
“I have no sin or transgressions,
I walk without sin and am upright”?42

Or how shall I condemn myself by saying:
“Spare none of those who treacherously plot evil”?43

How shall I say: “Like candle wax melts in the fire,
so sinners, before the face of God”?44

E How shall I, who have indulged in mortal vices, utter:
“I have humbled myself with fasting,”45
or in the similar, “When they were sick, I wore sackcloth,
and bowed down as in mourning and grief”?46

How shall I remain calm,
when the punishment facing my ilk looms before me:
“All wicked of the earth shall drink it
down to the dregs of God’s unceasing wrath,”47
and “He will cut off the horns of the wicked”?48

How shall I mock Jacob’s ingratitude,49
when I myself embrace shadows as the truth
and succumbing to their charms,
forget Christ’s salvation through the divine
miracle of the cross, this being more condemnable
than failing to recognize the miraculous power of
the Moses’ rod,
given us as assurance of divine providence?50

How shall I point to the perils of attacking demons,
as if they are foreign barbarians, saying:
“They have given the bodies of the righteous among us
as food to the birds,”51 that is, to the demons of the air?

How can I claim that the alliance of my will with evil
can be holy, when it is “like the seed of the word
fallen by the wayside”?52

How can I name those holy who pursue the hostile path
of wickedness, namely the rebellious conflicts of my
camouflaged mind, in collaboration with the devices of
the Slanderer?

And for these reasons I cannot pray, “God, be not silent,
do not hold your peace,” or “They have plotted against
your holy people and said . . .”?53

For it is quite proper that through these words
we recognize the virulence of demons and their cohorts,
causing trouble at every turn.

F Protect us, Lord Christ, exalted son of great God.
Fortify and surround us with your heavenly host,
defend us from the gusting winds of the Deceiver
with your cross of light.
For although any number of offenses may be found
in me, blasphemy is not among them.
For you were not gratified by
the destruction of the impious likes of me.
Rather with melancholy tenderness,
you are doubly aggrieved by the destruction
of the iniquitous in the flood,
considering their death intolerable and repugnant,
and saying in your heart the amazing words:
“I shall never again curse the earth because of the
deeds of man.”54
And you are greatly consoled and rejoice in
the deliverance of unclean men worthy of destruction,
as in the parable of the plant that shaded Jonah,55
where you spared those deserving of destruction, O merciful Lord.
And in another instance how greatly were you annoyed56
by the delay of the rain which would salvage those who denied you.
And in your last days you did great deeds
beyond telling, worthy of celebration,
commanding your disciples to spread your sweet
gospel of peace to the Gentiles and all peoples far and wide.57
Sprinkle upon me the dew of your compassionate
fatherly love, living God, so I too may find salvation
through the pardoning of my sins by your abundant mercy.
And to you, with the Father through the Holy Spirit,
glory forever.

1. Ps 50,16 (Arm 49):16.
2. Ps 3,7.
3. Ps 5,4.
4. Ps 7,9 (note that St. Gregory writes “your righteousness,” whereas the KJV reads: “my righteousness.”
5. Ps 7,10 (according to the Armenian version, whereas the KJV states “let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end.”)
6. Ps 10,15.
7. Ps 11,6.
8. Ps 12,4 (Arm 11):4.
9. Ps 17,3 (Arm 16):3.
10. Ps 17,4 (Arm 16):4.
11. Ps 17,15 (Arm 16):15.
12. Ps 18,23-24 (Arm 17):23-24.
13. Ps 26,6 (Arm 25):6.
14. Ps 26,4 (Arm 25):4.
15. Ps 26,1 (Arm 25):1.
16. Ps 28,3 (Arm 27):3.
17. Ps 28,4 (Arm 27):4.
18. Ps 50,22 (Arm 49):22.
19. Qo 7,21.
20. Lc 7,47.
21. 1Co 14,15.
22. Ps 6,8, Mt 7,23.
23. Ps 19,11 (Arm 18):11.
24. Ps 22,23 (Arm 21):23.
25. Ps 27,4 (Arm 26):4.
26. Ps 33,1 (Arm 32):1.
27. Ps 34,16 (Arm 33):16.
28. Ps 37,9 (Arm 36):9.
29. Ps 37,17 (Arm 36):17.
30. Ps 37,20 (Arm 36):20.
31. Ps 39,1 (Arm 38):1.
32. Ps 41,12 (Arm 39):12.
33. Ps 43,1 (Arm 42):1
34. Ps 44,20 (Arm 43):20.
35. 1R 11,4-8.
36. See Movses Khorenatsi, Book II, ch. 27, where he lists statue to Tarata, an Assyrian god, among the idols removed by King Abgar from Edessa upon conversion to Christianity. Some scholars link Tarahat with Molech of the Old Testament.
37. Ez 23,20.
38. Ps 44,22 (Arm 43):22.
39. Ps 49,3 (Arm 48):3.
40. Ps 53,5 (Arm 52):5.
41. Ps 56,13 (Arm 55): 13, Ps 116,9 (114-115):9.
42. Ps 59,4-6 (Arm 58):4-6 (pursuant to the Armenian version).
43. Ps 59,5 (Arm 58):5.
44. Ps 68,2 (Arm 67):2.
45. Ps 35,13 (Arm 34):13
46. Ps 35,14 (Arm 34):14.
47. Ps 75,9 (Arm 74):9 (pursuant to the Armenian version).
48. Ps 75,11 (Arm 74):11.
49. This verse refers to Jacob’s unwillingness to follow Moses to the promised land and to his unwillingness to recognize the miraculous power of the rod of Moses.
50. Ex 4,2-5.
51. Ps 79,2 (Arm 78):2.
52. Mt 13,4.
53. Ps 83,1-3 (Arm 82):1-3 (pursuant to the Armenian version).
54. Gn 8,21.
55. Jon 4,6-8 (the castor oil plant, in Armenian – a pumpkin vine).
56. 1R 17,1 1R 18,1 (delay of the rain on account of Elijah).
57. Mt 28,19-20.

Prayer 61

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A To what end should I recite the Psalms,
to what purpose sing them daily
with the harp of my voice when
in unison they condemn and curse me?

How can I adopt the persona of
the happy Psalmist, to say with him,
when I am doomed, “let perverseness
be far removed from my heart”? 1

How disconcerting are the many virtues
ascribed to kings, militant prophets
and commanders of the Old Law,
described in terms befitting the angels?

How can I recite them without
despondence at my life,
I the preacher of the good news,
I disciple of the New Covenant,
when I am devoid of those virtues?

How can I, in the manner of the righteous,
“Be armed to destroy the wicked at dawn,” 2
and always be ready and vigilant 3 as told in the parable,
when I have not tamed and disciplined my own body?

How can I emulate the great valor of David
and cleanse the Lord’s city of the unrighteous,
when I have not uprooted the shortcomings from
my own soul?

How can I lie to one who writes what has not yet been
revealed, saying “I have eaten ashes like bread”? 4
How can I who have not mixed one tainted drop
of my remorse with the pure springs of the
Psalmist’s eyes, say with him, “I have mingled my drink
with tears” 5 and “I have drenched my bed with tears”? 6

How can I confess my mortal sins,
when he who loved God with all his heart,
assumed the sins of his forefathers as his own,
saying, “We have sinned with our fathers
and have done wickedly,” 7
while all that follows is more rightly written
for me than for Israel.

How can I be counted among the good,
when I have not used those remedies
considered effective by human lights—
fasting to the point of death,
and frequent mortification of the flesh until the
body is spent—as practiced even by the Jews and the
pagans according to their religions?

Why then should “my righteousness endure forever,” 8
when I have done nothing to attain it?

B But so that I do not become tedious and long-winded,
let me compress my words,
words I say echoing the blessed David
in his inspired voice, “I seek you with all my heart.” 9

How shall I say with him something greater than this,
“I hold back my feet from every evil way”? 10

How shall I add this to what has already been said, “I
have laid up your word in my heart so that I might not
sin against you”? 11

How shall I express my emptiness as if it were fullness
along with the saints, saying, “Through your precepts I
get understanding; therefore I hate every false way”? 12

How shall I place my lies beside the true vows
of the meek, pledging fidelity, saying, “I have sworn
to observe your righteous ordinances”? 13

How can I repeat the verdict of the angel of death,
“Salvation is far from the wicked”? 14

How shall I, who am truly wicked, put myself
among the good, who receive their just reward from the
Lord, repeating, “Do good, O Lord, to those who ar
upright in their hearts”?

How shall I, who have strayed, sentence myself justly,
“But those who go off on their crooked ways,
the Lord will lead away with evildoers”? 15

How shall I so ashamed, cloak myself in pious dignity,
saying, “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high,” 16
and the verses that follow?
And how shall I, who has laid up my treasure in hell,
take words beyond human understanding
as a sign of encouragement to the weary,
and say with the anointed of God,

“Even before a word was on my tongue you knew,
O Lord, there was no cunning in it,” 17
and the rest of this psalm from its first letter to the last?

How shall I, who conspire with miscreants,
a condemned man and depraved son, call out,
“Do I not hate them that hate you, Lord,” 18
and the verses that follow?

How shall you, my soul, the most pitiful in the world,
with the confidences of that sublime soul,
offer your spirit without condemnation
and presume to boast with him who has earned
his halo, saying,“Test me, Lord, and see if there is any
iniquity upon my hands,” 19 and all that follows?

How shall I, being what I am, pray to be
delivered from evil and join my voice with those who
hope in God, saying, “Guard me, Lord, from the hands
of the wicked and preserve me from violent men”? 20

How shall I arise to pray with worthy David saying,
“You are my refuge and my portion in the land of
the living”?21

How shall I pray as if I had been in combat with evil,
to offer the prize of victory to God the king,
repeating these unreasonable expectations,
“The righteous will surround me;
for you will deal bountifully with me”?22

C How blessed is the spiritual message of the Psalmist,
which recalls our Lord’s own act of rebuffing his tempter,
despising all others and preferring only the first cause of
all creation, saying, “Happy the people whose
God is the Lord!”23
How sublime the exaltation of grace
expressed with prudent forthrightness, inspired by
heavenly goodness, “Your saints shall bless you!”24

How great the desire for the intimate kinship
of spiritual communion
to hope in God and built upon him
in the joyous words of the psalm,
“The Lord fulfills the desire of all who fear him,”
from which the Psalmist concludes:
“The Lord preserves all who love him,
but the wicked he will destroy.”25

Thus, in the last chapters of songs of praise,
the Psalmist puts the just and unjust
on notice of their fates, repeating
the themes that grow out of and resonate with
each other:
“The Lord lifts up the downtrodden,
he casts the haughty to the ground.”26

What calamity, then, awaits me
if, “the Lord takes pleasure in his holy people,
and adorns the humble with victory.”27
Where shall I stand?

And if “God is blessed among the saints as Lord,”
where do I fit, a stranger to saintliness?
And if next to those other warnings
I set the reminder,
“Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but punishes the haughty.”28
In what camp do I find myself,
captivated by the clever inventor of evil?

D For like the leaves of the cedar tree
wavering in the tempest, which stream down
in the battering winds,
so too the evil spirit tries to break
the fruitful branches of my life’s upward striving,
shaped by your nurturing hand, O uncreated God.

Restore these broken branches and
let them take root in the field of life
under the care of your good will,
with a new fruitful innocence.
O Christ King, who
bestows all good gifts,
blessed forever.

1. Ps 101,4 (Arm 100):4.
2. Ps 101,8 (Arm 100):8.
3. Mt 25,1-13 ( Parable of the Oil-bearing women), also possibly a reference to St. Gregory’s name, since Gregorios means ‘vigilant’ in Greek.
4. Ps 102,9 (Arm 101):9.
5. Ps 102,9 (Arm 101):9.
6. Ps 6,7.
7. Ps 106,6 (Arm 105):6.
8. Ps 112,9 (Arm 111):9.
9. Ps 119,10 (Arm 118):10.
10. Ps 119,101 (Arm 118):101.
11. Ps 119,11 (Arm 118):11.
12. Ps 119,104 (Arm 118):104.
13. Ps 119,106 (Arm 118):106.
14. Ps 119,155 (Arm 118):155.
15. Ps 125,4-5 (Arm 124):4-5.
16. Ps 131,1 (Arm 130):1.
17. Ps 139,4 (Arm 138):4 (pursuant to the Armenian version).
18. Ps 139,21 (Arm 138):21.
19. Ps 139,23-24 (Arm 138):23-24 (pursuant to the Armenian version).
20. Ps 140,4 (Arm 139):4.
21. Ps 142,6 (Arm 141):6.
22. Ps 142,7 (Arm 141):7.
23. Ps 144,15 (Arm 143):15.
24. Ps 145,10 (Arm 144):10.
25. Ps 145,19-20 (Arm 144):19-20.
26. Ps 147,6 (Arm 146):6 (pursuant to the Armenian).
27. Ps 149,4 (pursuant to the text).
28. Ps 31,23 (Arm 30):23 (pursuant to the Armenian).

Gregory Narek - Prayers - Prayer 56