- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Grigor Narekatsi


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Prayer 95  Colophon

Prayer 21

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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. Dan. 7:4.
2. Jl. 1:4.
3. Jer. 12:10.
4. Wis. 22:23.
5. Jer. 6:6-7.
6. Ps. 30:11.
7. Pr. 25:20.
8. Ps. 38:12.
9. Hos 13:3.
10. Jer. 17:5.



Source: St. Gregory of Narek
Provided by: Thomas J. Samuelian

© 2002, Thomas J. Samuelian. Published with the permission of the author.

See also:

Biography of Grigor Narekatsi (in Armenian)
The Christ-Child ( translated by Alice Stone Blackwell )

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