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Grigor Narekatsi

BOOK OF PRAYER


Tenets of Prayer  Prayer 1  Prayer 2  Prayer 3  Prayer 4  Prayer 5  Prayer 6
Prayer 7  Prayer 8  Prayer 9  Prayer 10  Prayer 11  Prayer 12  Prayer 13  Prayer 14
Prayer 15  Prayer 16  Prayer 17  Prayer 18  Prayer 19  Prayer 20  Prayer 21  Prayer 22
Prayer 23  Prayer 24  Prayer 25  Prayer 26  Prayer 27  Prayer 28  Prayer 29  Prayer 30
Prayer 31  Prayer 32  Prayer 33  Prayer 34  Prayer 35  Prayer 36  Prayer 37  Prayer 38
Prayer 39  Prayer 40  Prayer 41  Prayer 42  Prayer 43  Prayer 44  Prayer 45  Prayer 46
Prayer 47  Prayer 48  Prayer 49  Prayer 50  Prayer 51  Prayer 52  Prayer 53  Prayer 54
Prayer 55  Prayer 56  Prayer 57  Prayer 58  Prayer 59  Prayer 60  Prayer 61  Prayer 62
Prayer 63  Prayer 64  Prayer 65  Prayer 66  Prayer 67  Prayer 68  Prayer 69  Prayer 70
Prayer 71  Prayer 72  Prayer 73  Prayer 74  Prayer 75  Prayer 76  Prayer 77  Prayer 78
Prayer 79  Prayer 80  Prayer 81  Prayer 82  Prayer 83  Prayer 84  Prayer 85  Prayer 86
Prayer 87  Prayer 88  Prayer 89  Prayer 90  Prayer 91  Prayer 92  Prayer 93  Prayer 94
Prayer 95  Colophon


Prayer 75

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

And now, engulfed, entranced and overwhelmed
by the magnitude, multitude and frequency
of your gifts that overflow infinitely with abundant,
undiminishing plenty, on the left and right,
to the front and back,1
I approach to offer again, great God, a testament in praise of the true faith,
for although at times
I was ensnared and lured away
and expelled from Paradise2
by heretical doctrines, devices of the Deceiver,
now by this true doctrine in upright purity,
as a token of true grace3
again on wings of light
I ascend in pursuit of heaven.
And as I was conceived and born in the
womb of the Church,
with pangs of spiritual labor,
remembering the profession of faith
and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity,
I now should address the great
and favored immaculate queen,
true maiden of all virgins, my glorious mother,
worthy of praise, so she may be known
and proclaimed and the extent of her venerable glory might be told to the nations in the future,
worthy of honor
and reverence as a pure body
headed by the incarnate Word of God.

B

And now, in the manner of this word picture drawn by the Spirit,
this icon upon the altar of light,
accept me, O compassionate and blessed God,
and let me be pardoned and cleansed through it.
Remove the sinful stains upon my soul.
Seat me with the innocent and the pure under
its shadow.
Gather me up, the weakest of the house of David,4
and move me from there to the house of God,
as the Prophet said, referring to you, Jesus.5
Do not render my comings and goings from the chapel vain and useless.
Do not find the fervor of my faith cold.
Do not consider the embrace of my greeting out of place.
Do not deem my service without grace.
Do not leave my worship without inspiration.
May the vision of your image not be fruitless.
May this model of paradise not be lusterless.
May the fireless burnt offering not be overlooked.
May the sacrifice of this vow in words not be cast away.
May the taste of your light not be my death.
May the cup of the blood from your wounded side
not be my condemnation.6

C

To you, Lord Jesus, one of the divine essence,
whom we tasted, thereby coming to know the Father
and Holy Spirit,
to you, teacher who taught us
the all-rewarding ways of the church,
to you who dwell in this light-filled house of prayer
dedicated to the salvation of good souls
to you, ruler of all, Holy Trinity
with hearts spread forth and hands outstretched,
we offer this incense of words
forever, with grace and thanksgiving.7

D

We glorify you chanting hymns of praise,
believing in the efficacy of the ministry of the Word,8
O good commanding cause of all being,
Holy Trinity without beginning, peerless highness,
unfathomable mystery, incomprehensible for our minds,
unexaminable by our senses, beyond the capacity
of all creation, whose greatness encompasses
the heavens on high and the limitless depths below,
end of all ends and beginning of all beginnings,
one from three distinct persons,
three from one indivisible Godhead,
beyond the understanding of the unfettered mind
traversing all dimensions, unchanging good,
unshakable uprightness, unadulterated image of love,
greatness beyond which there is nothing,
height which cannot be lowered,
vision that cannot be marred,
undiminishing beneficence, steadfast will,
living commandment, sign of salvation, true blessing,
expectation of faith, unfeignable promise,
generous inheritance, trustworthy good news,
sublime beyond reach.
One Father of the only Son, honored by the singular Holy Spirit,
with the richest goodness, completely devoid of evil,
with thanksgiving offered in a voice of blessing,
exalted with hymns of praise beyond our understanding.

E

One of the exalted, the awesome name
partaker of the same honor,
the same ineffable nature,
the same substance of three conjoined lights,
perfection to which nothing can be added,
of his own free will reverently loving the Father,
whose likeness he bears,
with the aid of the Spirit of Holiness,9
who humbled itself and descended to earth,
without diminishing its inherent glory,
to enter the maternal womb of the immaculate Virgin,
Mother of God, in whom he grew the seeds of blessings
in that radiant field of purity,10
combining with the most perfect divine essence
in an unfathomable unity,
in a permeating union,
he miraculously combined into his divinity
the breath of our existence.

In this way, with the irresistible reins
of his guiding bridle, he calmed my unruliness
and willingly submitting to the cross.
He rose like the flower of the
fruit-bearing tree of life
upon the stem of immortality.11
He was wounded, died
without separating his divinity from
the flesh that is the same as ours
and suffering forever with his physical body,
inseparable from the essence of the creatorship
within him he brought life out of the
instrument of defeat.

Descending into the dark regions of hell,
he delivered the kidnapped beings of his creation
from the bonds of the alienating serpent,12
and as if shaking off the stupor of sleep,
he forced death’s assault on him to retreat,
and arose and came to life divinely
ascending from earth as the bread of life,
shepherding the flock of thinking souls.13
The world had faith in him and14
he appeared again to his disciples as he was
in no way diminished, for he
had come back whole and ascended
in his entirety to sit upon
the exalted throne with the glory
of his creatorship as simply
as it had been formerly.
We confess him as God, doer of good
and Lord of all who judges
all the earth with justice on the great day,
who himself is the beginning and himself
is the end, the first and the last,
who rules with his undiminished wholeness
in light too bright to approach.

F

We praise with the Father and the Son
the Lord Holy Spirit, which springs inseparably
forth from them sharing their glory,
the Spirit that created everything and gave life to all,
that Spirit which from the very beginning,
when the universe was completely enveloped
in misty darkness, brooded, designed and shaped15
the sea which covered the earth with
its infinite, all-powerful waters,
an act symbolic of the true mystery
of the holy baptismal font of light.
First he created and now he acts.
He brought into existence and constantly
performs his handiwork, splendid miracles,
foretold through the visions of saintly,
divine signs, amazing miracles,
prophets, apostles, scholars,
learned in the teaching of wisdom.

He prepared the sanctuary for the offering
of Christ’s blood. With mercy he ordered
the pardoning of souls and the healing of
bodies in the manner of Christ.
He baptized with that which is greater than water
and he renewed and enlightened through himself.16
He daily grows stronger by his good works.
He bore witness to the only begotten of God
at the flowing waters of the Jordan.17
With the voice of the Father in the shape of a cloud
he appeared on Mount Tabor.18
In the same form he protected the house of Jacob
in its exodus from Egypt.19
On the march led by Moses,
he engulfed Pharaoh with terrible winds.20
He creates priests.
He shapes sages.
He strengthens kings.
He accords pardon.
He grants life to the dead in the renewal of
the resurrection.
He himself is the anointing of God made man,
forever equally worshiped with the Father
for the honor of greatness of the Son,
with boundless glory praised forever,
Amen.

G21

We profess the true faith, unerring and pure,
with the kiss of our lips we greet the altar
built of lifeless stone, the body of the church
as the dwelling place of God
more exalted than the most splendid heights of heaven
and founded upon the congregation of the apostles,
and revered by the disciples of the one on high,
as the place where the servants of the Word worshiped.
This treasure of life had its beginning in
the upper room, the place where the miracle22
happened on the great day of Pentecost.
The spirit of God radiant with power,23
filled that beautiful house,
breathing upon it as a sign of the pre-eminence
of the church,
then sanctifying it through this act of grace,
then endowing it and those within with glorious
renewing light. Thus the blood of the almighty God
distributed and offered forever
is greater than Abel’s.24
For Abel’s cries only the message of death
but this blood shouts with a blissful voice
proclaiming life immortal.25
No one has the power under heaven
or before the sun to celebrate this awesome mystery
except under the protective wing of the church,
for heaven is not pleased with a gift of the Lord’s body,
except when offered under the auspices
of this blessed roof, and for this reason,
according to the Law, there is a curse of death
upon one who makes the divine offering,
except at the altar of communal sacrifice.
Moreover, one who makes this offering,
the image of the soul, at a place other than the altar,
shall be branded with blood guilt.

In the church, there is but one baptism into the
death of Christ,26
so that his divinity might not unwittingly suffer
sacrificed a second time to purify someone already cleansed by his light.27
There is but one laying on of hands
to be anointed with light so that deceit
might not be mixed with truth.
There is but one pardon,
more through grace than penance,28
so that the reality might not
be confused with appearances.
There is but one doctrine about the trial to come,29
so that the threat of punishment might not
seem like mere talk about some stranger.30
There is but one just warning for both of the elements
of our nature, so that in the immortal power
of the adoption into the kingdom of heaven31
the recompense for good and evil
does not appear solely for the inner soul, but
for the outer man too, so the true magnificence
of the kingdom might be manifest
through our earthly nature as well.
There is but one hope of life with the incorruptible saints,
so that the certitude of things promised,
as revealed to the minds of those who listen,
might be believed.

H

The inanimate church, venerable queen,
gives life and rules over death,
like the fruit that Adam was said to have eaten.32
But this church surpasses all animate beings,
for though inanimate, it performs miracles,
even undertaking to perfect and renew us,
by etching the image of the glorious light upon us.
It is written that the church shares the vault
of heaven’s grandeur, before the hosts
of spiritual beings that live there.
She uplifts bodies to soar again with
the lightness of the soul, endowing
the baser element with dignity.
She is not debased by her own faults,
but by being trampled by evil or faithless people.33
She is an amazing sign, overwhelming our
mind’s understanding,
this unthinking thing, created by thinking creatures,
that helps them as a superior helps its subordinate.
She is greater than man,
as the invincible rod was greater than
God’s chosen Moses.34
She surpasses the speaking beings
as the miraculously blooming rod was
greater than Aaron.35
She exceeds the thinking beings just as
the splendid cloak
that parted the rivers is greater than
Elijah and Elisha.36
She delivers assistance again and again with hands
more saintly than militant, for her body37
of stone and mortar shares the same substance
as the feeling beings and the saints.
Like an immortal rock, she lives in the falling
and rising of many.38
Like the judge of all souls, she comes forth
with miraculous signs
through curses and blessings.39
Like one who sees the unseen she exposes some,
shelters others.
Like the commander-in-chief she summons
all by name.40
Like an eternal mountain she resists attack.41
Like a net cast by God she catches souls.42
Sinless, unerring, she proceeds in the
footsteps of Christ.43
Like the praiseworthy, she lifts up her head in
sublime magnificence, boldly and without shame.

I

The church has such great sanctity that her canons
make distinctions among the creatures made
in God’s image.
If, despite care, an improper person
ventures through her portal,
she is not desecrated,
but rather distressed by this carelessness.
She is not cursed, but pardons those who do not understand her sanctity.
She is not abandoned as if she caused the shortcomings,
but is tarnished by our deeds.
She does not permit a second approach to receive
the mystery of the Lord at the feet of the
life-giving God.44
She does not permit that sacrament to be offered twice
in one day so that this gift is not debased by
indiscriminate use.
She has compassion for our frailties,45
the same as one immune from passion’s corruption.
Without a word she judges with lordly authority.

J

For she is an ark of purity,46
a second cause of rejoicing
who saves us from drowning
in the tumult of our worldly lives.
She does not gather all sorts of beasts and just a few humans, but rather gathers the heavenly host together with us mortals.
She is not tossed about on waves of agitation,47
but rises above it to the heavenly heights.
As a disciple under the command of the
Holy Spirit of God
she avoids iniquity.48
She does not demand a death blow to the flesh
but rather guides those in her care to the
good news of life.
She is not built by the hand of Noah,
but is built by the command of the creator.49
She is not adorned by Moses with the craftsman Bezaleel,50 but by the only begotten Son of God
with the Holy Spirit.
She is not in perpetual motion, constantly changing
but is established permanently upon an
unshakable foundation.
Like the ark made of wooden planks,51
lacking the ability to speak and the sense of sight,
still she guides us anew.
In the image of the creator’s infinite plenitude
she goes ahead to prepare for us a place in
the light of life.52
She strikes one dead on the spot, like Uzzah,53
if she is not shouldered like the cross in the soul.
She kills without pause or trace
if she is carried off like some man-made vessel
on a cart harnessed to beasts in earthly desires.54
She speaks not with the tongues of men,
but with the language of angels.55
She does not listen with physical ears
but comprehends directly with her mind.56
She does not proclaim with articulated sounds
but tells the message of Jesus’ works to all nations.57
She does not have vocal cords but expresses
herself with the breath of the living God.
She does not have joints of bones and nerves
but just as the armed throngs of Israelites
though the chosen army of God on high,
were made to stand two thousand cubits from the ark of the covenant58 because of their impiety, she still keeps her distance from those infected with sin
even though they were delivered from the toil
of brick-making in Egypt.59
Even the essence of God incarnate was
called the “rock,” 60
for the thirst of the many was quenched by
the piercing of his side.61
It is not the flow of blood through veins
but the rays of light from on high
penetrating and becoming one with it
that give the Church life and renewal.
It is not masterful art of Solomon or Zurababel,62
but the wisdom of God who holds all in his hands
that designs the Church.
It is not with the unconsecrated and common oil of Jacob
that is applied to it, but with the awesome
blood and glory of the great God that it is anointed.63
It is not a house made with the things of earth,64
but rather the body of the heavenly light of God
where he baptizes and ordains its children.
The Church nurtures not those born to the
ways of the world,65
but rather those who are heirs to the
heavenly kingdom,66
so that she might offer to the bosom of Abraham
those raised in her care.67
The bridegroom of her wedding day is the
Son of the living God.
And the rejoicing entourage of bride’s maids are the
assembly of patriarchs.68
She makes us forget the high places of pagan
worship where demons dwell, so that only God in heaven might be worshiped.
She is the complete refutation of the images
of pagan gods for in her every stone Christ is exalted.69

She is the open destruction of the self-indulgent
nymph cults of the forest, so that above all other trees
of this world, the Lord might be offered,
like the tree of life, in the Church.70

She undermines all the false, magical, fertility idols
because in her and with her the adored rock
is established, set in light-giving rubies and living stones.71

K

This graceful, God-pleasing house is free of all servility.72
It is not the image of Zion on high, but rather
the true Zion as experienced in reality.
It is not a pagan fire altar or
a place of penance under the yoke of the Law,73
but rather the Lord’s table which we kiss offering thanks
for his loving-kindness. It is unshakable,
never taking on a different image but rather
grows ever greater in the same radiant glory,
proclaiming the heavens and representing
heaven on earth in brilliant light.
Just as without the Father, there is no Christ,
so without the womb of the mother Church,
the soul cannot be fulfilled.74
The infinite God would wander were it not for
the shelter of the tabernacle of this house of prayer.75
The Lord of all would have no place to rest his head,76
if he did not lodge at this inn of life.
He is more honored in this material dwelling place
than in the vault of heaven on high.
The infinity of the divine light
that covered the face of the prophet and those
with him77 caused people to flee because the glorious
radiance was overwhelming, whereas here in the Church,
while celebrating those very prophets,
they approach the light and sing praise with
the host of angels. Here in the Church, God’s good will
and repeated blessings exceed the splendor of paradise.

L

This spiritual, heavenly mother of light
cared for me as a son more than a earthly, breathing, physical mother could.
The milk of her bosom was the blood of Christ.
If one were to consider her the image of the Mother
of God, it would not be impious.
Like the sign of the cross of salvation with amazing
powers and handiwork, it performs miracles.
The terrifying tribunal of the last judgment
is established there visibly.
Through her the babbling mouths of immoral heretics
are silenced.
She also has intelligent, speaking stones,
by which she chases away the beastly and unclean.78
She gives birth to godly mortals,79
saints in the image of the sole God, Christ.80
She faces east, our first place of habitation.81
She points the way to the second coming of God,
and making us face east guides us toward
the Lord’s brilliant light.82
The dawn and rising of the sun foreshadow
for the creatures of earth the vision of Christ
on the day of the last judgment.
She drives away pain, heals the infirm, overcomes
the tyranny of demons.
Like a jubilant bridal party the twelve apostles
encircle her the life-giving fountain, the womb of life.
So much have her blessings and bliss increased
and flourished that she has been called by the name of
the Savior himself83
and by those close to the only begotten Son,
she was consecrated in the name the radiant
Mother of God.
For sinners tossing about on the sea, she is a safe harbor;
for the heavenly choirs, a place of jubilation.
For the perplexed mortal, a place of sure healing.
The Holy Trinity, beyond telling, is glorified in her,
the blessed in all.

M

And woe to him who raises a hand in malice
against the heavenly kingdom as if
the doctrine of the church made by hands,
were some physical invention
or human artifact or earthly handiwork,
and not the gift of life and reflection of the divine,84
a foreshadow of the renewing light revealed by
the Holy Spirit, and the abundant gifts of God on high,
the altar honoring the mystery of the will of the creator.
and the institution founded with wisdom by the right
hand of the apostles, in a word, the gate of heaven,85
the city of the living God,86
the mother of all living things, free of all sin,87
and the true model of our visible, thinking being.
Her intellectual part is the mystery of our souls.
Her palpable part is the image of our bodies.
And a new holiness surpassing the holiness of old88
and crowned with the brilliantly glorious sign of Christ.
Those who do not confess this
are expelled from the Almighty’s presence
by the hand of his consubstantial Word,
depriving them of the inheritance of grace
from the co-glorified Holy Spirit,
and closing before them the doors to the
bridal chamber of life.
And we who have written this bear witness to it
and believe in what we have composed here,89
in the name of and for the glory of the almighty Trinity
and of the one Godhead,
forever and ever.
Amen.

The first prayer was my credo to the Holy Trinity90 and this prayer my avowed profession of faith to my Mother Church glorified with light.

___________________
1. Here, based on certain manuscripts, the Jerusalem Narek has a sub-caption that reads: “Again for a second time the traditional doctrine established by the Apostles under the inspiration of the Divine Spirit is set forth here to shed light on the doctrine of the church and interpret the blessed image beyond words that the inanimate physical church represents.” Some commentators believe Prayer 75 to be a continuation of Prayer 34, where St. Gregory sets forth the confession of faith, without addressing the Church.
2. Gen. 3.
3. 1 Tim. 6:20.
4. That is, the Church.
5. Zech 12:8.
6. 1 Cor. 11:27.
7. Here, some versions have another subtitle: “Another meditation on the Creed and Confession of Faith adopted at the Council of Nicea” (AD 325).
8. Acts 6:4.
9. Mt. 1:18-20, Lk. 1:35.
10. Gen. 22:18, Lk. 1:42.
11. Is. 11:1.
12. 1 Pet. 3:18-19, Eph. 4:8.
13. Jn. 6:35, Heb. 13:20.
14. 1 Tim. 3:16.
15. Gen. 1:2.
16. Acts 10:44.
17. Mt. 3:16.
18. Mt. 17:5.
19. Ex. 13:21.
20. Ex. 14:28.
21. In some versions this section is preceded by a subheading: “The prayer of St. Gregory on the mysteries of the Holy Church against the impious sect of the Tondrakians, the new Manicheans.”
22. Mt. 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20.
23. Acts 2:1-4.
24. Gen. 4:10.
25. Heb. 12:24.
26. Rom. 6:2-3, Eph. 4:5.
27. Heb. 6:4-5.
28. Justification by grace, not works.
29. Eph. 4:5, Mt. 25:31-46.
30. Acts 17:19-20.
31. Lk. 20:36.
32. Gen. 3:9-10.
33. Ps. 79 (Arm 78):1.
34. Ex. 4:1-5.
35. Num. 17:8.
36. 2 Kg. 2:8, 14.
37. Ex. 17:22.
38. 1 Pet. 2:4-5, Lk. 2:34.
39. Mt. 25:24, 41.
40. Ps. 147 (Arm. 146-7):4.
41. Ps. 125 (Arm. 124):1.
42. Mt. 13:37.
43. Eph. 5:24-27.
44. Mt. 28:9; Jn. 20:17.
45. Heb. 4:15.
46. Gen. 6:14.
47. Gen. 7:1-18.
48. Wis. 1:5.
49. Gen. 6:14.
50. Ex. 31:1-11.
51. Ex. 25:10, Num. 11:33.
52. Jn. 14:2-3.
53. 2 Sam. 6:6-7.
54. 2 Sam. 6:3-7.
55. Ex. 25:22, 1 Cor. 11:10.
56. 1 Kg. 8:28-30.
57. Rom. 10:18.
58. Jos. 3:1-6.
59. Ex. 5:6-18.
60. 1 Cor. 10:4, Is. 28:16, Dan. 2:45, Zech. 3:9.
61. Jn. 19:34, Ex. 17:6. The piercing of Christ side on the Cross may be being compared the quenching of the thirst of the Israelites, when Moses struck the rock with his staff at Horeb.
62. 1 Kg. 6:15-32, 1 Esd. 5:56-58.
63. Gen. 28:18.
64. Not “Beth-El,” Gen. 28:19.
65. Jn. 1:13.
66. Jas. 2:5.
67. Lk. 16:22.
68. Rev. 21:2, 9-14.
69. Is. 54:11, Rev. 21:10, 19-20, Lk. 19:40.
70. Gen. 2:9.
71. Rev. 21:9-21. Christ dwells in the Apostles and saints of the Church.
72. Gal. 3:26.
73. Num. 16:16-35.
74. Jn. 3:1-12. K?chichian, p. 407, n. 2, cites a parallel in St. Cyprian (d. 258) “Habere non potest Deum Patrem, qui Ecclesiam non habet matrem” (De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, c. 6).
75. 2 Sam. 7:6.
76. Mt. 8:20.
77. Ex. 34:29-35, 40:34-35.
78. Ex. 19:13, Heb. 12:20, 2 Macc. 1:16, 3:24-40.
79. Jn. 1:12, 10:34-35.
80. Rom. 8:29, 2 Cor. 3:18.
81. Gen. 2:8
82. Mt. 24:27.
83. A reference to churches named, for example, Sb. Amenaprkich – Holy Savior, or Sb. Astvatsatsin, or Sb. Etchmiadzin, the Mother See of the Armenian Church.
84. Some versions have “expectation of the divine.”
85. Gen. 28:17.
86. Heb. 12:22.
87. Gal. 4:26.
88. Heb. 9:1-5.
89. 2 Cor. 4:13, Ps. 116 (Arm. 114-115):10.
90. St. Gregory appears to be referring to Prayer 34 above.

 

Acknowledgements:

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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