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Author Topic: St. Gregory of Narek's "Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart"  (Read 1186 times) Average Rating: 0
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Shanghaiski
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« on: September 22, 2011, 03:57:57 PM »

I suppose this could just as easily go under book reviews, too, but I just had to say how much I have benefited reading this book. It is available online for free in e-form here: http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/

For those who don't know, it is a collection of compunctionate prayers written by an Armenian bishop in the 11th century, St. Gregory of Narek, who just narrowly missed being in communion with the Eastern Orthodox, as I see it, by one of those sad historical accidents. (Forgive me if others feel otherwise.)

I have very much enjoyed his poetry, his spirituality, his honesty about the condition of sin which he saw in himself, and feel this collection is very much in the same spirit of St. Ephraim the Syrian's "Spiritual Psalter" or the writings of many other EO saints. The English translation is excellent and poetic. I would encourage everyone to read it. I think there is so much that we can all benefit from reading it.

IMHO, this is a book very much worth purchasing and reading continually. It's in my top four with St. Ephraim's Spiritual Psalter, Abbot Nikon's Letters, and Father Arseny.
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2011, 04:19:54 PM »

It is very beautiful isn't it.

I wish that so much more of the Armenian tradition was available in English. I've had this book for many years and it is always moving and always a help to spiritual reflection.

Father Peter
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2011, 04:27:56 PM »

I share your wish, Father. Below is one of my favorites. It seems to me it could be read as an exorcism.

Prayer 90

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

Glorified God in heaven,
sole creator, lord of all,
awesome majesty,
compassion worthy of blessing,
mercy worthy of proclamation,
providence worthy of worship,
love of mankind worthy of celebration,
protection worthy of adoration,
exalted beyond understanding,
close to us by your choice,
unfailing refuge,
you comfort our hearts,1
you make our grief disappear and reassure us
in our pain,
you end our despair and wipe away our debts,
you remedy our shortcomings, discipline our passions, and shape our words,
you rein in our tongues, regulate our breathing, and
control our speech,
you bring our thoughts together, discipline our will, and settle our emotions,
you calm storms and restore tranquility to the waves,
you hold the rudder of my impulsive will
and taming it with your wisdom,
you guide me back to you.
B

O ever exalted giver of gifts,
you are forbearing with lowly gentleness,
dwelling with fervor and untold miracles in the souls of the saints.2
O king of all beings, merciful one proclaimed by
the universe,
you are our forefather and originator of
the law of love.3
O path of life,4
you sweetly lead me, a learner, toward your
heavenly light.
O most steady outstretched hand,
you do not let me stumble to my destruction.
O image of hope,
you appear before praying human hands as
that truthful hope.
O refuge of peace,
you never lead us to the risk of condemnation.
O bestower of free grace,
you redeem us fully without compensation.
O generosity that knows no jealousy,
you adorn with your glory the base earth of
which I am made.
O brilliance without shadows,
who engulfs me, a miserable wretch, in the
radiance of your awesome majesty,
restore and make me flourish again.
O pardoner of our multiple sins,5
rekindling the former brilliance of those
deprived of salvation,
remake their splendor.
O Almighty,
you make it possible to reach the infinite heights.
O certain path,
you lead us toward the promised joy.
O yearned for bliss,
it is pleasing to give up the breath of life,
that I might find you, Living God.6
O unwavering will,
who is able to pardon me, a slave,
you deserve all praise.
O unerring balm of life,
who performs miracles even over those
completely without life.7
O undoubted creator of all,
who resurrects in the blink of an eye,8
those consumed by fire, blown to the winds,
or devoured in the jaws of beasts,
back into their undiminished physical being.
O brave nobility without equal,
in whom it is right to boast and
in whose glory we can bask.9

C

Look, Lord, from heaven, with cheerful sweetness
upon me, imperiled on all sides by destruction.
Calm my anxious sobbing.
Grant the ease of repose.
The deadly armies are mounted against me:
battalions of violent warriors armed with
all manner of demonic devices,
the barrage of ugly sins hateful to you,
the strokes of pain and destructive disease.
Repel them, take them away, cut them off, stop them,
drive them out, banishing them to a distant place.
Destroy them yet again
and erect the sign of your cross
as a destiny of life and beacon at my death
guiding me to your refuge,
O Salvation.

D

And through the invincible, infallible and irresistible
power of your awesome majesty,
may the secret snares of Satan be undone,
may his tools be snatched away and the
stumbling blocks removed,
may his traps be foiled,
may his ambush be discovered,
may his treachery be revealed,
may his nets be lifted away,
may his weeds be burned,10
may the wicked spells be cast out,
may the deceptive ropes of the hunter of death be cut,
may the liar’s gossip be confounded.
may the troublemaker’s weapons run out,
may the swords fall from the hands of the
bearer of death,
may the attacker’s preparations be scuttled,
may the ropes of the tormentor come undone,
may the false appearances of the hypocrites
be unmasked,
may the heavy-handedness of the haughty be banned,
may the bands of marauders be dispersed,
may the hordes of thieves be banished,
may the masses of barbarians be expelled,
may the fortresses of the rebels be demolished,
may the tempests of the boastful be checked,
may the rainstorms of the tempter be dispelled,
may the frost of the divider evaporate,
may the horn of the wicked be broken,11
may the pedestals of idols collapse,
may the bragging of the proud be shattered,
may the aggressors’ confrontations be repulsed,
may the troops of Belial be destroyed –
both spiritual and physical,
may the invaders from one route be set to flight
in seven directions,12
may they fall into the pits they have dug for me,13
may the winters of discontent turn to summer,
may the ties that bind me to the tireless outlaw be cut,
may the kiss of the flatterer upon my forehead revolt me,
may the barrage of arrows from my tormentor cease,
may the boat of the trickster always be rocky,
may the teeth of the biter be ripped from their roots.

E

Through the blessed wood of life,
upon which you were bound,
incomprehensible God,
by the memory of those nails,
with which you were spread upon the instrument of death, creator of heaven and earth,
by your lordly blood, by which, as with a fishhook, you caught the great serpent,14
by the bitterness of the bile,
which you drank, pouring out the deadly
potion of the destroyer,
by the blessed recounting of your horrible torment,
through which you shamed and silenced
the impudence of the opponent,
by your name that cannot be understood or explained in any way, before which the natures of the visible and invisible, tremble with fear and awesome terror and are condemned,
may all these gifts of grace
be for me, who proclaim them,
protection, cure and pardon.

And for the serpent that brought the bitter
poison of death,15
by whom the universe was betrayed into evil,
may these bring the death for him.
May he be bound and taken captive,
subjected to the stroke of incurable torture.

May your mercy, O creator, toward me,
and the breath of my soul toward you,
be united inseparably as one.

F

And let whoever may read these requests
and supplications
of the voice calling out in prayer,
with the love of God,
whether old or young, girl or boy,16
or one of the maidens,
may all equally receive, without distinction,
from you a portion of the blessing of forgiveness of sin,
and be restored to their former spotless purity,
sealed with your unchanging image.
You who are almighty, powerful, beyond telling,
beyond understanding, beyond comprehension,
look upon the cries of the sighing heart,
offered to you from the lips of all,
for your Father in heaven and doer of good,
for the Holy Spirit, co-equal in glory and giver of life,
through the intercession of your Mother of God,
and the prayers of all the saints.

For you created everything
and from you all things came into being,17
and you rule over all,
and to you is befitting glory from all creation.
You, one of the very essence of the timeless trinity,
infinitely glorified together,
forever and ever.
Amen.
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2011, 04:39:52 PM »

It is very beautiful isn't it.

I wish that so much more of the Armenian tradition was available in English. I've had this book for many years and it is always moving and always a help to spiritual reflection.

Father Peter
Happy 2000th post Father Peter!

On a more related note (Smiley), I really do hope the writings of the Armenian Fathers are more widely translated into English soon.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2011, 04:53:24 PM by Severian » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2011, 05:13:08 PM »

Selam
Yes I wish it too, how uplifting, instructive, illuminating, edifying it is, I found it by accident awhile back and it has been very beneficial to me ever since. His love and humility pours forth in every word,  he makes you weep with him, infects you with his joy,  his faith ,his hope, blesses you with his adoration, but all these are weak words to explain what happens to a person while reading this book.
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Only pray for me, that God would give me both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but truly will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. St.Ignatius of Antioch.Epistle to the Romans.
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« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2011, 02:09:26 PM »


For those who don't know, it is a collection of compunctionate prayers written by an Armenian bishop in the 11th century, St. Gregory of Narek, who just narrowly missed being in communion with the Eastern Orthodox, as I see it, by one of those sad historical accidents. (Forgive me if others feel otherwise.)

Just small corrections and some additional information.

St Gregory wasn't a bishop. He was a hieromonk vardapet who, since his early childhood when he and his 2 brothers lost their mother, lived all his life in the Monastery of Narek the abbot of which, Anania of Narek, was their uncle, the brother of their mother. Anania of Narek also has some writings, for example, on tears, on thoughts etc. The father of St Gregory was a bishop, Khosrov of Andzevatsik. He also has left some writings: a commentary on the Divine Liturgy and a commentary on the prayers and other units of the Book of Common Prayer of the Armenian Church.

St Gregory wrote his famous Book of Prayers at the request of the brothers of the Narek Monastery at the end of his life. He authored other writings too: a commentary on the Song of Songs, homilies and hymns, as well as an epistle to the Monastery of Kchav to warn against the errors of the sect of the Tondrakids.

As for the tales about his being accused of or persecuted for secretly being a "heretic" Chalcedonic, these are unfounded inventions by some scholars. There is nothing in his very brief biography that has reached us that could indicate such a thing. There is just a legend of a later origin about him, in which it is told that he was accused by some as being a heretic (but not mentioning any name of a particular heresy) who didn't observe fasts, so once on a fast day some monks, his accusers, visited him, he put a fried bird on the table, and when they said, "Father, but today is a fast day", St Gregory said, "Oh forgive me, Fathers, I had forgotten", and he prayed, and immediately the bird became alive and flew away. And the accusers became ashamed. So, because of this folk story some decided that if he was accused of being a heretic, then that heresy could be the Chalcedonic "heresy". But do Chalcedonic "heretics" eat fried birds on fast days??? Even if we suppose this story is true, the heresy of St Gregory could more like that of Tondrakids who didn't observe the fasts of the Church. But then, as I wrote above, St Gregory has written a letter warning against the errors of Tondrakids.

But from one book to another, this unfounded opinion that St Gregory was a secret Chalcedonic for which he was even persecuted is repeated. Sadly.
  
« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 02:15:44 PM by vasnTearn » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2011, 08:07:07 PM »

I wasn't referring to supposed Chacedonian leanings--didn't know about that, but to the failed reunion council with the Romans and Armenians "near" to the time of Gregory's death.

As for his bio in the book, he was persecuted or under suspicion by some people for something, possibly because his uncle was a "liberal," whatever that meant. He was one of the most learned men of his time in Greater Armenia, and most likely the object of envy.

Understand I am NOT trying to spread unfounded rumors.
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