Gregory Narek - Prayers
1 expressed in practical words born of much grief
on counsel for the benefit of the soul,
on the rules of contrite living,
on dedication and commitment,
on exposing the unseen,
on confession of sins,
on disclosure of secrets,
on laying open of the covered up,
on reproach for the hidden.
powerful salves for incurable wounds,
effective medicines for invisible pains,
multi-symptom remedies for the pangs of turmoil,
for the passions of all temperaments,
occasions for tears, impulses to prayer,
prepared in response to the requests of
the hermit fathers and the multitude in the desert,
called the book of lamentations written
by the monk Gregory of Narek Monastery.
1. See Prayer 88, ll. 43-49.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A The voice of a sighing heart, its sobs and mournful cries,1
I offer up to you, O Seer of Secrets,2
placing the fruits of my wavering mind 3
as a savory sacrifice on the fire of my grieving soul 4
to be delivered to you in the censer of my will.
Compassionate Lord, breathe in
this offering and look more favorably on it
than upon a more sumptuous sacrifice5
offered with rich smoke. Please find
this simple string of words acceptable.
Do not turn in disdain.
May this unsolicited gift reach you,
this sacrifice of words6
from the deep mystery-filled chamber
of my feelings, consumed in flames
fueled by whatever grace I may have within me.7
As I pray, do not let these
pleas annoy you, Almighty,
like the raised hands of Jacob,
whose irreverence was rebuked
by Isaiah,8 nor let them seem like the impudence
of Babylon criticized in the 72nd Psalm.
But let these words be acceptable
as were the fragrant offerings
in the tabernacle at Shiloh9
raised again by David on his return from captivity
as the resting place for the ark of the covenant,
a symbol for the restoration of my lost soul.
B Because your stern judgment
echoes mightily in the valley of retribution,10
contradictory impulses in my soul
brace for battle like clashing mobs.
Crowds of thoughts strike each other, sword
against armor, evil against good,
ensnaring me for death, as in other times,
when your grace had not rescued me –
that grace of Christ, which Paul,
chosen among the apostles,
taught was greater than the law of Moses.11
For as the Scripture says, “The day
of the Lord is upon us,” 12
and in the narrow valley of Jehoshaphat 13
on the banks of the Kidron,14
those small battle grounds
foreshadow on earth
victory in the life to come.
Thus, the kingdom of God in a visible form
has come already, charging me
on truthful testimony with wrongs
graver than those of the Edomites,15
Philistines and other barbarians –
wrongs that brought down the hand of God.
And whereas their sentences were measured in years,
my transgressions will be punished without term.
As the prophet and the parable-teller warned,
the dungeon and shackles16
are already at my threshold to show me
here and now my eternal disgrace.
Only you can work the miracle
to make life possible for a soul
so imperiled by doubt,
O Atoner for all, exalted beyond saying
in your boundless glory on high
forever and ever.
1. Cf. Ps 6,7; See, also, Ps 38,9-10, (“For my soul is filled with torment, and there is no cure for my body. I am tortured and laid low in the extreme, and I groan with the sighs of my heart.”); Rm 8,26 (“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words, and he who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”). But See Is 6,10.
2. Ps 44,21.
3. Ps 42,6 (“Why are you cast down, my soul?”); also incanted by the deacon during the Ascension to the Altar at the beginning of the Armenian Divine Liturgy.
5. Ps 51,15-20 Am 5,22.
6. Cf. Divine Liturgy, Hymn of the Angels “Hreshtakayin” (“myriads of angels worship youa, yet it was pleasing to you to receive praise in a mysterious voice from human beings.”).
7. Ps 92,14 (“They [the righteous] shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”); Cf. Pr 11,25 (“The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”); See Lv 1,8-13; For “fat as a choice offering,” See, Lv 4,8-9 (“and the fat that is upon them”); Ph 4,18 (“I have all and abound: I am full . . . an odor of sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”); Lc 6,46 (“For the good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good . . . for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”); But see, Is 6,10.
8. Is 1,15.
9. 2S 6,17.
10. Jl 3,14.
11. Ac 13,39, Rm 8,2-3.
12. Jl 2,1 Jl 3,14.
13. 2Ch 20,16 2Ch 20,26-27.
14. 2Ch 15,16.
15. Is 14,26-29 Jr 47,1 Jr 49,7-18.
16. Is 24,17 Jr 48,43.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A And now, my heavy laden soul,
what will you do?
You call with your lips and voice to
God most high,
God, who cares only for deeds and
is not taken in by words.
You, my soul, with a heart always turned toward Egypt,
how can I describe you?1
a Sodom, to be punished likewise with destruction,2
or the prosecutor of Ninevah, who was struck dumb? 3
more cowardly and barbarous than the
queen of the south,4
lower than Canaan,5
more stubborn than Amalek,6
incurable as the city of idols,7
a relic left behind from the rebellion of Israel,8
a reminder of the broken covenant of Judah,9
more reproachable than Tyre,10
more shunned than Zidon,11
more immoral than Galilee,
more unpardonable than faithless Capernaum,12
maligned like Korazin,13
slandered like Bethsaida? 14
Or am I
immodest as Ephraim as he grayed,
or a dove, whose gentleness seems due to
feeblemindedness and not to inner calm, 15
or an evil serpent born of lion’s cubs,
or the serpent’s egg filled with decay,
or like the last blow against Jerusalem?
Or am I
in the words of our Lord
and the sayings of the prophets,16
an abandoned tabernacle about to collapse,
the unlatched doors of the stronghold,
my speaking edifice stained again,
having given up my rightful inheritance,
my home built by God,
as Moses, David and Jeremiah prophesied? 17
My thinking body now consumed by disease,
afflicted with carping counsel, rehabilitated by the law,
anointed with the clay of mildness,
incapable of finding my own salvation,
torn away from the maker’s hand,
expelled as just punishment
by order of the Almighty, to an unholy place,18
rejected, exiled, greatly shunned, nothing spared,
having buried my gift in the ground,19
like the one chastised in the Gospel by
losing his inheritance.
B But you, God,
Lord of souls and all flesh,
in the words of one divinely graced,20
you are long-suffering and abounding in mercy.
In the voice of blessed Jonah,21
grant that I finish to your delight
this book of prayers, now begun.
And having sown these words with tears
and set forth on this journey toward the dwellings you have prepared,
may I return joyfully in the time of harvest
with the bounty of atonement,
with sheaves of goodness and the fruits of delight.
Do not give me a barren heart,
like the childless womb that was Israel’s,22
or eyes like dry breasts,23
but hear the prayers of your thoughtful servant,
almighty and merciful Lord,
before the prayers of heaven,
as those of heaven are heard before those of earth,
the earth before offerings of wheat, wine and oil,
and the wheat, wine and oil before Jezreel,24
so may the pleadings of the heavenly host
move my soul more than worldly temptation.
You – the potter, I – the clay.25
Show me, here at the threshold of these contrite prayers,
the sweetness of your will.
Strengthen me that I might not be unworthy
of the light when the heavens open,
so that I might not be consumed and snuffed out
like a candle.
Rather as you would for any earnest entreaty,26
give me heart, for I am exhausted,
give me strength, for I am weary,
give me life, for I am worn by pangs of conscience,
and relieve my anguish in seeking you.
Accept the gift of my prayers
and grant the mercy of your grace.
Accept this meager offering from a weakling like me,
and grant greatly from your heavenly might.
Fortify my words of repentance, having sent the
Holy Ghost, endowed with the message of the breath of God.
Grant, benevolent Lord, that we might be
enlightened like Isaiah.
Offer me, although I am deserving of death,
the gold of grace instead of the brass of a
the brightness of copper instead of blackness of unadorned iron, remembering copper as a symbol of virtue shining from Lebanon.27
C Why have you hardened my miserable heart
so I do not fear you, who is beyond words and awe? 28
Help, so I will not be unfruitful in this task
like the planter vainly sowing seeds into barren ground.29
Spare me that I may not
labor without birth,
sigh without tears,
meditate without voice,
cloud without rain,
struggle without reaching,
call without being heard,
implore without being heeded,
groan without being comforted,
beg without being helped,
smolder without aroma,30
see you without being fulfilled.
Hear me, Lord, before I cry out to you,
who alone are almighty,
Do not leave the wages of my suffering unrecompensed
for the tallied days of my life of sin,
wayward soul that I am.
D Grant me life, compassionate Lord.
Hear me, merciful Lord.
Be charitable to me, forgiving Lord.
Save me, long-suffering Lord.
Protect me, defender Lord.
Be generous, all-giving Lord.
Free me, all-powerful Lord.
Revive me, restoring Lord.
Raise me again, awe-inspiring Lord.
Enlighten me, heavenly Lord.
Cure me, omnipotent Lord.
Grant pardon, inscrutable Lord.
Bestow gifts, bountiful Lord.
Adorn me with grace, generous Lord.
Let us be reconciled, healing Lord.
Be accepting, unvengeful Lord.
Wipe away my transgressions, blessed Lord,
so that on that Day of Misery,
when I stare at the abyss on either side,
I may also catch sight of your salvation,
my hope and guardian,
and on that terrifying journey
your angel of peace may sweetly guide me.
Endow me, Lord, on the day my breath is finished
with a clean spirit raised in light among
the joyful heavenly host,
with gifts of your love overtaking me.
May I arrive with the workers for justice.
Grant to my wayward soul an unexpected kindness
on that day of despair.
Do not assign, blessed Lord and Savior,
a wild beast to guide your sick sheep,
but grant me health, for I am dying of sin,
grant me salvation, for I am ruined by transgressions.
E Will you, I wonder:
Forget to be charitable, my expectation?
Neglect to be compassionate, caring Lord?
Regret your charity toward humankind, constant Lord?
Retreat from your life-giving, everlasting Lord?
Abandon the cheerful fruit of your mercy?
Corrupt the gracious flower of your sweetness?
Dishonor the grandeur of your generous bounty? 31
Vary the glory of your white-haired exaltation? 32
Waste the fitting splendor of your crown?
If bliss is for the merciful,
then you, a kingdom unto yourself, filled with love,
will you not grant me full salvation?
Will you not offer a salve for my wounds?
Will you not minister to my pains?
Will you not cure my weakness?
Will you not shed light upon the darkness,
for me who trusts in your strength?
You, gift of life to the universe,
who alone have glory in oneself and of oneself,
whose everlasting being is witnessed by everything,
blessed and glorified through three eternities,
and beyond the limits of all conceivable infinities.
1. Is 29,13 Ac 7,39
2. Gn 19,1-29.
3. Mt 12,41.
4. Mt 12,42.
5. Os 12,7.
6. Ex 17,8-16.
7. Jr 51,9.
8. Ex 32,1-4.
10. Jl 3,4.
11. Jl 3,4.
12. Lc 10,15.
13. Mt 11,21.
14. Mt 11,21.
15. Os 7,9-11.
16. Lc 21,20-24 Jr 30,7.
17. Jr 12,7-13.
18. Lv 14,40.
19. Mt 25,18.
20. NM 16,22.
21. Jon 4,2.
22. Gn 11,30.
23. Os 9,14.
24. Os 2,21-22;
25. Is 64,8; Jr 18,6.
26. Is 25,4 (Arm. 25,5).
27. Is 60,17.
28. Is 63,17.
29. Mt 13,5; Jn 10,11.
30. Lv 3,3-5 1S 2,15.
31. Da 7,9 (white-hair of the ancient of days).
32. Ap 1,14.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A Lord, my Lord, grantor of gifts, root of goodness,
ruler of all equally, creator of all from nothing,
glorified, awesome, awe inspiring,
dreadful, mighty, stern,
unbearable, unapproachable, incomprehensible,
ineffable, invisible, unexaminable,
without beginning, outside of time,
unclouded knowledge, bold vision,
true being, exalted and humble,1
blessed existence, shadowless dawn,
ray shining upon all, light professing to all,
unwavering assurance, undisturbable calm,
indelible seal, infinite image, witnessed name,
taste of sweetness, cup of bliss,
soul-nourishing bread, love in dark exile,
covering most desirable, garment most protective,
cloak most worthy, ornament most glorious,
great help, trustworthy refuge,
undiminishing grace, inexhaustible treasure,
pure rain, glittering dew,
universal cure, free healing,
health restored, sublime spur,
undeceiving call, good news for all,
king who lifts up the slave,
defender who loves the poor,
giver of endless wealth,
safe harbor, unyielding command,
hope without bounds,
long in vision, unsparing in generosity,
just right hand that dispenses to all,
impartial eye, voice of comfort, consoling tidings,
harbinger of bliss,
living name, finger of foresight,
unstumbling start, sincere course,
life-giving will, candid advice, unenvying honor,
broad possibility, narrow restriction,
track without trace, path without markers,
image indescribable, quantity immeasurable,
unparalleled compassion, inexhaustible mercy,
humility celebrated, kiss of salvation.
And more than these worthy epithets,
dedicated to your Godliness,
you who are blessed, praised, lauded,
proclaimed, exalted, recounted, sought with
whatever your streams of sweetness bring us,
shall be illustrated in these image-filled psalms,
showing you joyful in my salvation, blessed Lord,
as if a ravenous hunger had been relieved by a
for you are glorified not because of some
vain song of mine,
but because you may accept these modest prayers
as justification for granting your great salvation.
B A new book of psalms sings with urgency through me,
for all thinking people the world over,
expressing all human passions
and serving with its images
as an encyclopedic companion to our human condition,
for the entire, mixed congregation of the
for the newborn who have just arrived,
for adolescents in the second stage of life,
for adults whose days are ripe and numbered,
for the guilty and the just,
for the brazenly haughty and the falsely modest,
for the good and the evil,
for cowardly and brave,
for slaves and underlings,
for nobles and clerics,
for the middle class and princely,
for artisans and the lords,
for men and women,
for commanders and servants,
for high and low,
for exalted and menial,
for royalty and commoners,
for knights and footmen,
for city and country folk,
for those brutally bridled by arrogant kings,2
for those cloistered in heavenly contemplation,
for sages with God-given wisdom,
for priests, pious and chosen,
for bishops, properly arrayed,
for patriarchs, charged with pious supervision.
May this book of prayers
I have undertaken to compose
with the strength of the Holy Spirit
and with a view to the multitudinous needs of all
serve for some as heartfelt pleas of intercession and
for others as counsel toward virtue
that through this book they might constantly
appear before you, Great Mercy.
C May you heal the souls and wash away the
transgressions of those who read this
book with pure hearts.
Forgive their debts and free them from the bonds of sin.
Release the flow of tears from those who study this book,
and instill in them the desire to repent.
And with them, Lord, grant me, contrition for my
willfulness, and give them grace-filled inspiration
through my voice.
May their prayers, through this book, also be
offered for me, and may their sighs rise like
incense in place of mine.
May your light enter and dwell in those
who taste and embrace these mournful psalms.
And if through me some pious readers dedicate
themselves to you, receive me also, merciful Lord, with
those who live for you.
And if this book brings forth cleansing tears for our ills,
may they also rain upon me, Keeper.
And if those who share the passion for life contained in
this book are enrolled in your heavenly kingdom and
earn salvation, grant that by your will,
O blessed Lord, I might be in their number.
And if sighs pleasing to God should be evoked through
this book, may the benefit overflow to me also,
If a pure hand lifts incense to you,
may my voice join with the sound and sighs of
prayers and reach you.
If others’ petitions labor to be born with mine,
may mine, thus multiplied, be rededicated to you.
If my offering of the words of my soul is pleasing,
may they be offered to you with those who
have gone before.
If disheartened people falter in exhaustion,
may they regain their steadiness through these
sighs, setting their hope on you.
If the bulwark of their faith crumbles with sin,
may it be rebuilt with these writings shaped by
your protecting right hand.
If the thread of hope is severed by the sword of
trangressions, may it be restored by the goodness of
your almighty will.
D If the perils of death besiege a person with pain,
may redemption and hope of life be found through
these words, victorious in you, O Life Giver,
If a confused heart is wounded by doubt,
may these words make it whole through your sweetness.
If one is defeated by an irreparable loss,
or buried in the depths of an abyss,
may he come to the light under your watchfulness,
hooked by this invention.
If one is ensnared by drugs and their torpor,
and surrenders to dark tendencies,
let him be strengthened on your account, Sole Refuge,
and find tranquility in you.
If deserted by the armor of faith,
may he be sustained through the hand of
and held in your steadfastness.
If one strays from the watchful eye of his caretakers,
let him be watched over by these words until their
If one is seized by the tremors of demonic fevers,
awake his soul with the sign of the cross,
proclaiming and worshiping this miracle.
If a violent storm suddenly strikes
the vessel of the human body on
its voyage through this world,
steady its course with your rudder and
send it sailing back toward you.
E And may you make this book of mournful psalms
begun in your name, Most High,
into a life-giving salve for the sufferings of
body and soul.
May you perfect what I have started
and may your spirit be mixed with it.
May the breath of your great might
infuse these verses with grace
so that you may brace the wilting heart
and accept praise from us all.
1. Ps 138,8.
2. 2R 19,28.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A Since I have begun
these conversations with you
who holds in your hand
the life breath of my sinful soul,
I am shaken, and rightly so,
trembling in constant fear, remembering,
with unbearable terror that defies words,
O creator of heaven and earth,
your inescapable tribunal,
which justly judges me a sinner.
And what is more, there exists no remedy
for the multitude of incurable, mortal wounds
and the stinging bites inflicted by the deadly fangs
of him who pursues my soul’s destruction.
Especially since according to the Prophet,
there is no putting off the day of confrontation: 1
Not by words of justification,
not by a cloak of protection,
not by a mask of obfuscation,
not by speeches of propitiation,
not by appearances of deception,
not by compositions of prevarication,
not by swift feet of evasion,
not by aversion,
not by the ashen dust of abnegation,
not by fixing one’s mouth to the earth,
not by self-burial in the depths of the earth,
for even the covered and the invisible are
readily seen by you.
B My virtue is dissipated and depleted,
my sins laid open and ever worsening,
my wrongs permanent and I am lost as
the weight of the right is ever decreasing
and the weight of wrong is increasing,
the harvest of goodness washes away
and the errors of my ways harden to stone.
The bail is lost even as the sentence is sealed.
Death’s mortgage is signed,
while the covenant of good news is voided.
The doer of good is despondent,
while the doer of evil is jubilant.
The host of angels grieve,
while Satan’s horde dances in glee.
The army on high is orphaned,
while the army below is elated.
The murderer’s bounty grows,
while the protector’s treasure is plundered.
The third parties’ rights are upheld,
and the true heir’s legacy is betrayed.
The creator’s gift is forgotten,
while the destroyer’s ambush is remembered.
The Savior’s grace is mocked,
while the tricks of Satan are celebrated.
The fountain of life runs dry,
while the tyrant’s rust continues to corrode my soul.
C And now, would it not be better.
as the prophecies foretold,2
never to have been conceived,
never to have taken shape,
never to have been born,
never to have seen the light of life,
never to have been counted among mortals,
never to have struggled toward the state of immortality,
never to have been dressed in the image of beauty,
never to have been armed with words,
than to be seized by such horrible sins,
too great for a hard rock to bear
let alone the frail body?
D And now, compassionate God,
I pray for your mercy,
as you instructed in your own words,
“Make offerings in the name of God’s salvation
and you shall be made holy,
for I want contrition not sacrifice.”3
Be exalted anew in remembrance of this offering in
for everything is in you, and everything is from you.
To you glory from all.
1. Qo 8,8.
2. Jb 3 passim; Jr 20,14.
3. Os 6,6 Mt 9,13 Mt 12,7 Ps 51,16-17.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A And now, I, earthbound
and preoccupied with the cares of everyday existence,
numbed by the deceitful wine of foolishness,1
I, who lie in all things and am truthful in none,
marked with these faults,
how shall I come before your judgment, Just Judge,
terrible beyond words and telling, mighty God of all?
The more I compare my sinful ingratitude with your
the more I prove that your law is always stronger,
and my lawlessness, always defeated.
B You made me in your glorious image,2
favoring a weak being like me
with your sublime likeness,
adorning me with speech,
and burnishing me with your breath,
enriching me with thought,
cultivating me with wisdom,
establishing me with ingenuity,3
setting me apart from the animals,
endowing my character with a thinking soul,
embellishing me with a sovereign individuality,
giving birth as a father, nurturing as a nurse,
caring for me as a guardian,
You sowed a wayward being in your courtyard,4
irrigated me with the water of life,5
cleansed me with the dew of the baptismal fount,
nourished me with heavenly bread,
quenched my thirst with your blood,
acquainted me with the impalpable and
emboldened my earthly eyes to seek you,
embraced me in your glorious light,
permitted my unclean earthly hands to
make offerings to you,
honored my base, mortal ashes,
like a flicker of light,
imprinted upon a worthless wretch like me
your father’s image, awesome and blessed,
out of your love for mankind.
C You did not scald my mouth for daring to
call myself your co-heir,
did not reprimand me for arrogantly
associating with you,
did not darken the sight of my eyes for
gazing upon you,
did not exile me in shackles with
those condemned to death,
did not break the wrist of my arm for
improperly reaching to you,
did not crack the digits of my fingers for
touching the word of life,6
did not engulf me with fog for dedicating this
to you, fearsome Lord,7
did not crush the rows of my teeth for
chewing your communion, infinite Lord,
did not turn in anger as I did with you,
as with the stubborn house of Israel,
did not dishonor me at your wedding party,
I, who am unworthy of singing and dancing,
did not scold me for my disheveled clothes,
I, who am disorderly,
did not cast me into the dark, my hands and
D And I exchanged all these portions of
goodness, patience and forgiveness from you,
O beneficent, blessed and always-tolerant God,
for all manner of waywardness of the flesh and the ego,
for the wavering passions of the mind and the
diversions of worldliness.
Yes, that is how, my God and Lord, I repaid you for
your abundant goodness.
Thus did I offer you evil in the manner of
Abandoning wisdom and pursuing foolishness,
thus did I foully dissipate the bounty of your favor with the ways of vanity,
thus in a storm of mindlessness did I lose the beacon of your ineffable grace glowing with your care,
God most high.
E And although on many occasions you attempted
to draw me to you by reaching out your helping hand,
I rejected it, as the prophet accused Israel.10
And although I promised and made a
covenant to please you,
I did not keep it,11
but again perverted it into something evil.
Reverting to my old ways,
I sowed the field of my heart with thorns of
sin for a harvest of dissension.
The words of the God-fearing holy prophet apply to me,
for you expected grapes but instead I sprouted thorns.
I became an unappetizing fruit of bitterness,
outcast from the garden.
Swaying violently in unsteady winds,
always blowing to and fro, I wavered.
Like the voice of blessed Job, I followed my
path of no return.12
I built my house upon the sands in foolishness.13
Misled by the broad gate, I missed the
narrow gate to life.14
I closed myself off from the pilgrimage of exodus.
I spitefully uncovered the abyss of destruction.
I blocked my hearing against your teaching of life.
I covered the eyes of my soul against the cure of life.
I did not recoil from the wasting of the mind from torpor,
in spite of your trumpet of wrath.
I was not sobered by the reports of the fiery trial,
on the day of judgment.15
I did not awaken from the slumber of mortal sleep.
I did not give comfort to your Holy Spirit in my
I did not inhale the allotment of grace you granted me.
With my own hand I wreaked havoc, in the words of the proverb teller,
killing my living soul.16
F And what is the use of composing these meager and
in my state of remorse which passes all measure and evades all cure?
Now it is up to you to offer life to my dead soul
and without vengeance to visit me,
a condemned prisoner,
O Son of the Living God, to you be all glory.
1. Ps 60,3 (Arm. 59,5).
2. Gn 1,26-27.
3. Ex 31,3.
4. Ps 92,13 (Arm. 91:14).
5. Jn 7,38.
6. 1Jn 1,1.
7. 1R 8,10-12.
8. Mt 22,12-13.
9. Dt 32,5-6.
10. Jr 6,8.
11. Ps 78,10 (Arm. 77,10).
12. Jb 16,22.
13. Mt 7,26.
14. Mt 7,13.
15. Mt 24,31, Ap 21,8.
16. Sg 1,15-16.
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
A What use, what good is it to me
to exhaust myself with this stream of words, the voice of my sighing heart?
Would it not be better to lance the accumulated words, like deadly pus,
or with fingers in the throat, to vomit up the heaviness of my heart, weighed down with
the wounds of my soul?
B And since I was not found worthy of sharing
in the glory of the saints with their blissful
laughter and smiles, as described by the proverb teller1
and psalmist,2 I shall be granted the second rank,
the rank where people like me are assigned.
But in view of the error of my ways,
even they are superior to me just as the penitent is
superior to the impenitent.
Manasseh should be celebrated,
when compared with the excess of my transgressions.3
The Pharisee should be honored when compared with my foul baseness.4
The Prodigal Son should be praised
when compared to the betrayal of my vows.5
The deceit of the Amasseh’s son should be commended,
when compared with my thankless ingratitude.6
More blessed is the thief who was prosecutor
of the faithless.7
More honorable is the prostitute, the example and the mother of all repentant.8
C No less than Pharaoh have I hardened my heart.
No less blameworthy than the frenzied Israelite mob,
have I rebelled against my creator.
No less than the enemies of God have I
taken the battlefield,
and I did not refrain from denying the creator of
all from nothing.
I make waves like the turbulent sea during a storm,
but I do not tremble, humbled by your
like the waves of the sea against the shore.9
My countless misdeeds are measured like
mounds of sand.
The boundless accumulation is less than the
mass of my lawlessness.
D For although small things mount up
as sands on the shore,
nevertheless, they are unique and distinct in their
origin and increase,
and like my transgressions, so countless that
they are impossible to comprehend:
one with its kith,
the other with its kin,
one with its defects,
the other with its dangers,
one with its thorns,
the other with its roots,
one with its stem,
the other with its fruits,
one with its limbs,
the other with its branches,
one with its shoots,
the other with its joints,
one with its claws,
the other with its fingers,
one with its shakiness,
the other with its sturdiness,
one with its causes,
the other with its effects,
one with its imprint,
the other with its traces,
one with its shadow,
the other with its darkness,
one with its tactics,
the other with its strategy,
one with its guile,
the other with its intent,
one with its trajectory,
the other with its size,
one with its depth,
the other with its baseness,
one with its spark,
the other with its passion,
one with its goods,
the other with its treasures,
one with its pipes,
the other with its fountain,
one with its torrents,
the other with its lightening,
one with its flames,
the other with its shame,
one with its pits,
the other with its abysses,
one with its embers,
the other with its dullness,
one with its thunder,
the other with its raindrops,
one with its currents,
the other with its floods and frost,
one with its gates,
the other with its roadways,
the furnace and its heat,
the fire and its fumes,
the melting tallow and its scent,
the wormwood tree and its bitter sap,
the destroyer and its victim,
the thief and his assassins,
the bully and his accomplices,
the master and his servants,
the beast and its whelps,
the biter and the bitten,
the corrupter and its imitator.
E And these are but the main categories
of the soul’s common afflictions.
They are further divided into smaller classes,
each of which has thousands upon
thousands of subclasses,
but the total number can be comprehended
only by the one who sees as done
that which is scripted in us.10
If a person does not indulge in self-deception nor
put on a mask,
and is not tricked by lack of faith,
but has self-knowledge,
and senses our common human nature,
and is cognizant of being earth born and knows our proper place and limitations,
then he shall understand this list of attributes,
not as some meaningless scribble,
nor as a complete description of even the essential types and kinds of imperfections whirling in our nature.
Rather, he will know that I have identified certain seeds of the thousands of evils,
and even if through these he learns of others,
he realizes that even these categories are not enough.
1. Jb 8,21.
2. Ps 149,5.
3. 2R 21,1-18, 2Ch 33,1-20.
4. Lc 18,11-14.
5. Lc 15,11 Lc 15,31.
6. 2Ch 26,16-19.
7. Lc 23,43.
8. Lc 7,35-50.
9. Jb 38,11, Ps 104,6-9 (Arm. 103):6-9.
10. Rm 8,29-30 2Co 3,2-3.
Gregory Narek - Prayers