- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Grigor Narekatsi


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Prayer 27

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart


As I adapted the earlier chapters to the
wordy creations offered up in my lamenting voice,
wailing and sobbing, shrieking cries,
weeping sighs of anguish,
again I begin my prayers
with confession and contrition,
revealing my dark secrets.
And I shall place here, at
the beginning and end of each sentence
the same words, echoing each other
to form a single supplication of similar litanies
for soul-saving humility.


I have sinned against your beneficence,
disrespectful sinner that I am.
I have sinned against the rays of your dawn,
dark sinner that I am.
I have sinned against the boundless benefits of your grace, verily I have sinned.
I have sinned against the exalted mercy of love,
brazenly I have sinned.
I have sinned against the creator ex nihilo,
truly I have sinned.
I have sinned against the tenderness of your
almighty embrace,
unworthy sinner that I am.
I have sinned against the enlightenment of your
undiminishing light,
deceitful sinner that I am.
I have sinned against the eating of your ineffable life, many times I have sinned.
I have sinned against the talents of your
incomprehensible gifts,
at all times I have sinned.
I have sinned against the praiseworthy body of God, mortally I have sinned.
I have sinned against your worshipful blood, our creator, truly I have sinned.


Indeed this “I have sinned” is a blessed phrase in this prayer for the heart set on hope,
It has an honorable lineage, an unforgettable image,
paternal tribute, law of our forefathers,
our common inheritance,
irrefutable argument, forceful response,
bridge of life, pleasing to Heaven,
beloved of the saints, unseverable tie,
magical words, inescapable logic, earnest request,
inviting altar, heart-rending cry,
hope for the hopeless, shield against hardship,
charter for the faithful, letter to the pagans,
rule of the ancients, birthright of Christians,
victorious creative force, mighty abyss,
terrifying separation, transcending art,
incomprehensible depth, dazzling vision,
sealed mystery that cannot be unlocked,
beyond the grasp of the quickest mind.
A fitting, miraculous sound,
which was not uttered by the outcast sinners,1
for if it had been, perhaps at that very moment,
the just death sentence and culling of the flock2
no longer being applicable,
the eternal barrier would have been torn down.
This word is an ornament of crowning glory,
by which the Godhead himself spreads his
magnanimity among us.


For who, having sought refuge by holding the
horn of the holy altar,
did not instantly escape punishment, being found pure?3
Or as Achan, son of Carmi,4 King Saul,5 and Judas,6
were not absolved, merely by saying “I sinned”?
This, I affirm, with God as my witness, was just and fair,
for forced confession is not performed with loving
contrition and therefore cannot bring salvation.


But I again embrace this happy word,
repeating it willingly
like a kind of baptism:
I have sinned by forgetting your favor,
again I have sinned.
I have sinned by slaying my soul with my hands of flesh, senselessly I have sinned.7
I have sinned by betraying the life you gave,
verily I have sinned.
I have sinned by ignoring your word,
basely I have sinned.
I have sinned by hastening the day of my death myself, destructively I have sinned.
I have sinned by mortgaging myself to lifeless death, mockingly I have sinned.
I have sinned by my impudence before your greatness, annoyingly I have sinned.


Yet again I cry out my soul’s ultimate lament.
For its loss and destruction came about by my own hand,
I strayed beyond return and though treated as a son,
I turned hostile.
I stumbled from the heights of heaven and only gathered thorns of life.
Moreover, I cry out,
for I defiled myself and turned myself into
an altar to the Destroyer.
There is also another ache in my heart,
for they consider me to be something I am not.
Like an outwardly sparkling cup, that is really dirty,
or a whitewashed wall, that is filthy,
or a showoff dressed in vain conceit,
that is really a light engulfed in gloom,
a miserable eye blinded not by a speck, but a stick,8
or an extinguished torch of glory,
destructive in all things, in all places, in all ways,
toward the providence of the Lord,
toward the manifestations of Godliness,
toward the images shaped by the creator,
toward the fearfulness of humility,
toward the one, whom I saw with my own eyes,9
toward this, for which I am more accountable
than for the entire Gospel.
Amazement, shock,
gnawing cares, those infeasible intentions and
calculations beyond the mind’s ken,
failed escapes, faulty landings,
deserved disappointments, fair reprimand,
appropriate ridicule, just denunciation,
well-deserved curses –
such are the accusations and self-inflicted
torments of my sinful self.


And since you are able to forgive all these
transgressions and cure these deadly wounds,
Lord of mercies, God of all
Christ King, Son of the exalted Father,
creator, compassionate, beneficent,
blessed, generous, bountiful,
awesome, mighty, merciful,
guardian, rescuer, bulwark,
savior, reviver, resusciator,
long-suffering, unvengeful, refuge,
physician, praised, heavenly,
ineffable, light, life,
resurrection, renewal, atonement.


If you would look upon me with that goodwill
toward mankind as you do,
then as I contemplate you, I will cry out in anguish.
If you would listen, I will sigh.
If you would incline your ear, I will whisper a prayer.
If you would take note, I will beseech you.
If you would forgive, I will ask forgiveness.
If you would turn toward me, I will call.
For if you turn away, I will be ruined.
And if you kick me away, I will cry.
If you do not protect my soul, I shall die.
If you show me your terrible countenance, I will perish.
And if you scold me, I will tremble.
If you glare at me, I will shake.
If you are stern, I cringe.
If you drive me away, I whimper.
If you knock me down, I will shatter.
If you do not put out the flames of despair, I agonize.
If you despise me, I will flee.
If you threaten me, I will collapse.
If you examine me, I will be stoned.
If you look hard at me, I will sink.
If you do not spare me, I will be rejected.
If you summon me, I will be paranoid.
If you stare at me, I will be shamed.
If you call me, I will fear.
For I have betrayed the gift of goodness,
forsaken bliss, abandoned grace, disavowed my word,
forgotten the gift of life, lost boldness and confidence,
angered the creator of my being,
trampled that grace beyond words,
deformed the image of honor.


But if you, Lord Jesus, reach out
to me in loving-kindness as I suffocate with sighs of pain,
then, as the Scriptures promised,
“Your cure will cleanse away the greatest sins.”10
And through your boundless kindness
I will be joined to you, with your image of light
re-imprinted upon my soul.
Atoned and re-established in your salvation,
I will reach the immortal life of the virtuous
and give glory forever to you
with the Father and Holy Spirit.

1. Mt. 25:41.
2. Mt. 25:32.
3. 1 Kg. 2:28.
4. Jos. 7:19.
5. 1 Sam. 15:24.
6. Mt. 27:4.
7. Rom. 6:12.
8. Mt. 7:3.
9. Commentators through the centuries have interpreted this as a witness to St. Gregory’s sainthood and visions. Critical Edition p. 1026, n. 14.
10. Ec. 10:4.



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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