St. Gregory of Narek (951-1003)
- Thousand years ago St. Gregory of Narek (951-1003) set out, with much
trepidation, on a sublime mission to translate the pure sighs of
the "broken and contrite" heart1 into an offering of words pleasing
to God. Beginning each prayer with the incantation "speaking with God
from the depths of the heart," he referred to himself as "a living
book (Prayer 39b)" and to his book as a compendium of prayers for all
times and nations2 - "a testament... its letters like my body, its
message like my soul (Prayer 54e)." Thus, the man equated himself
with the book, and ever since, the book has been equated with this
saintly man.3 So the book like the man came to be known
affectionately as Narek.
St. Gregory's Book of Prayer is also sometimes called the Book of
Lamentations.6 The book is known in Armenian as Girk aghotits
(literally, 'book of prayer') or Matean voghbergutyan
(literally 'book of tragedy or lamentation'). 'Lamentation' is one
possible translation of the Armenian word voghbergutyun, which also
can be translated as `tragedy,' as it has been translated into French.
Lamentations: Conversations with God" have recently been translated
into English and are available online:
St. Gregory was a monk by lake Van in Armenia during the 11th
century. His sorrowful writings often come near to despair, but
ultimately he finds comfort in God's mercy. His poems/prayers are
used extensively in the liturgy of the Armenian church.
In HIS Love
Thomas Daniel (Reji)
St. George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
Cheppaud, Alleppy Dist, Kerala, India.