- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Grigor Narekatsi


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Prayer 95  Colophon

Prayer 26

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart


And now, truly and rightly, I join the others
who, modulating the sobs of their voices,
appropriately dress their writing
with the same sound at the end of each verse,
thereby more intensely inflaming and rending the heart,
and the anguish of the pangs of its distress
to the point of tears.
Thus I take my place at the head of the table of
the practitioners of this art,
who punctuate their poetry with sobs,
and like them sighing and exclaiming “alas,”
I lay open the grief of my soul,
which is not totally dead to the world,
but is not truly alive to God,
poetry neither especially hot, or particularly cold1
as the Evangelist wrote in the Revelations,
thrice condemned by the Holy Trinity and
all-knowing creator.
Thus, the fitting manifestation of my afflictions,
making them twice as pitiful,
is to set forth with a single rhyme
making them the epitome of wretchedness,
resonating response after response.


Like one, who renouncing debts, incurs even
more penalties, wretched person that I am,
I am condemned by my unworthy acts
to a double penalty and unwaivable judgment,
liable before the Almighty, apprehended without
any defense, in a matter of thousands of talents,
but without an ear’s worth of coins,
held captive in bitter confinement without
an intercessor to sup on sighs and
pain in a prison of darkness,
tormented without refuge or sustenance, I am pitiful,
and chose here a different mode for my lamentations,
transposing my weeping with words,
arranged with regularity in the same manner,
with the indivisible, mystical symbol: 20,
the pure vowel sound “ee” and the number of talents
returned by the industrious servant of the parable.2
The flames of the furnace of spiritual poverty are
fanned from all sides, around my miserable,
defenseless self.
My anguished heart is mortgaged and
my inconstant soul, easy prey to error.
Unsparingly indicted, judgment shall be
demanded of me.
My senses shall be wounded by the weapons of
death and sin.
Like a slave condemned beyond salvation,
my very essence is shredded by the hacking of
its sharp sword.
At the mere recollection of the tribunal of my judgment,
gloom without a glimmer of light envelopes
my pessimistic eyes.
Helpless captive of doubt, wretch that I am,
the image of heaven’s consternation overwhelms me.
In the severe sunless Tartaros, without cover,
without refuge, singed by the flames of Gehenna, I am
lost without trace, swallowed by the abyss of sin.
This is my net worth of useless silver
which will never be honored or acceptable for deposit
in the Lord’s treasury.
My petitions are tainted and my hands are
unclean for an offering.
I am heart broken and my fingers tremble in
hope of redemption.
With my face to the ground, I beseech you,
Mother of Jesus,
intercede and pray for forgiveness for me, a sinner.
You, who are the mighty savior of life, Queen of Heaven,
to you we offer the blessing of our voices and
the fragrance of incense and the gift of sweet oils.


Now, let me add to the lamentations already written, another part.
I have offered to the grantor of grace the fruits of tears.
Having been unable to find the depth of my perdition,
whenever I tried to describe it in precise words,
even the swift wings of my mind were not able to
comprehend its essence.
Because the defeat of my mental capacities by
the invincible forces of sin,
I have taken the cup of wrath in my hand and
I drink, as a taste of death, the perplexity of doubt.
And now that I have set these rhythms of transgression to song with a pitiful voice,
an invisible inferno blazes within me with flames that cannot be quenched,
like some invisible molten metal bubbling furiously in an blasting furnace,
like the shooting of poisoned arrows into the deepest chamber of my heart,
like jabs of pain from mortal wounds piercing through the veins of my liver,
like pangs of labor, pain is stuck in my blocked intestines unable to escape,
like my two burning kidneys that cannot be cured,
like the unbearable bitterness of bile at the back of my throat,
the fading voice of a sigh of “alas” can be heard in my windpipe.
The various elements of the nature of my essence are like
enemies at war with each other,3
wavering with the timidity of opinions in total crisis.
Although kin, they are destroying each other in
irreconcilable betrayal,
neither dead nor alive, buried in the mire of
the baseness of sin.
And with the suspicion of a convict I gaze upon
your benevolence,
that I might be lifted out of the pit of this hopeless life into the light of our desire.


May he who copies these words be crowned
among the blissful.
May he expecting your mercy join the ranks of the pure.
May he be granted life through your beneficence for his homage to God the Word.
May the praiseworthy blessings of your lips be
upon the heart of him who distributes this book.
May the aspiration of Solomon’s book of
Proverbs be fulfilled.4
Through your Spirit, exalted God, may the imprint of your image be incorruptibly renewed,
for you alone are patient and forgiving,
and to you all glory.

1. Rev. 3:15-16.
2. This line has been the subject of a number of interpretations. Critical Edition p. 1019-20 n. 11. Avetikian is followed here, according to which the reference is to the letter ini in Armenian, which is the number twenty and also the sound in which all the lines in this prayer end starting from Part B. The vowel [i] is indivisible as a “pure sound” not a diphthong, and is mystical in that it is the number of talents returned by the industrious servant in the parable of the Three Servants, Mt. 25:14.
3. This is the conflict between the four elements, earth, wind, fire and water, out of which medieval thinkers believed all else was composed.
4. Pr. 11:25.



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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