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My heavy laden soul . . . how can I describe you?

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
by the monk Gregory of Narek Monastery

A

And now, my heavy laden soul,
what will you do?
You call with your lips and voice to
God most high,
God, who cares only for deeds and
is not taken in by words.
You, my soul, with a heart always turned toward Egypt,
how can I describe you?

Am I
a Sodom, to be punished likewise with destruction,
or the prosecutor of Ninevah, who was struck dumb?

Am I
more cowardly and barbarous than the
queen of the south,
lower than Canaan,
more stubborn than Amalek,
incurable as the city of idols,
a relic left behind from the rebellion of Israel,
a reminder of the broken covenant of Judah,
more reproachable than Tyre,
more shunned than Zidon,
more immoral than Galilee,
more unpardonable than faithless Capernaum,
maligned like Korazin,
slandered like Bethsaida?

Or am I
immodest as Ephraim as he grayed,
or a dove, whose gentleness seems due to
feeblemindedness and not to inner calm,
or an evil serpent born of lionís cubs,
or the serpentís egg filled with decay,
or like the last blow against Jerusalem?

Or am I
in the words of our Lord
and the sayings of the prophets,
an abandoned tabernacle about to collapse,
the unlatched doors of the stronghold,
my speaking edifice stained again,
having given up my rightful inheritance,
my home built by God,
as Moses, David and Jeremiah prophesied?
My thinking body now consumed by disease,
afflicted with carping counsel, rehabilitated by the law,
anointed with the clay of mildness,
incapable of finding my own salvation,
torn away from the makerís hand,
expelled as just punishment
by order of the Almighty, to an unholy place,
rejected, exiled, greatly shunned, nothing spared,
having buried my gift in the ground,
like the one chastised in the Gospel by
losing his inheritance.

B

But you, God,
Lord of souls and all flesh,
in the words of one divinely graced,
you are long-suffering and abounding in mercy.
In the voice of blessed Jonah,
grant that I finish to your delight
this book of prayers, now begun.
And having sown these words with tears
and set forth on this journey toward the dwellings you have prepared,
may I return joyfully in the time of harvest
with the bounty of atonement,
with sheaves of goodness and the fruits of delight.

Do not give me a barren heart,
like the childless womb that was Israelís,
or eyes like dry breasts,23
but hear the prayers of your thoughtful servant,
almighty and merciful Lord,
before the prayers of heaven,
as those of heaven are heard before those of earth,
the earth before offerings of wheat, wine and oil,
and the wheat, wine and oil before Jezreel,
so may the pleadings of the heavenly host
move my soul more than worldly temptation.
You Ė the potter, I Ė the clay.
Show me, here at the threshold of these contrite prayers,
the sweetness of your will.
Strengthen me that I might not be unworthy
of the light when the heavens open,
so that I might not be consumed and snuffed out
like a candle.
Rather as you would for any earnest entreaty,
give me heart, for I am exhausted,
give me strength, for I am weary,
give me life, for I am worn by pangs of conscience,
and relieve my anguish in seeking you.
Accept the gift of my prayers
and grant the mercy of your grace.
Accept this meager offering from a weakling like me,
and grant greatly from your heavenly might.
Fortify my words of repentance, having sent the
Holy Ghost, endowed with the message of the breath of God.
Grant, benevolent Lord, that we might be
enlightened like Isaiah.
Offer me, although I am deserving of death,
the gold of grace instead of the brass of a
disregarded voice,
the brightness of copper instead of blackness of unadorned iron, remembering copper as a symbol of virtue shining from Lebanon.27

C

Why have you hardened my miserable heart
so I do not fear you, who is beyond words and awe?
Help, so I will not be unfruitful in this task
like the planter vainly sowing seeds into barren ground.
Spare me that I may not
labor without birth,
sigh without tears,
meditate without voice,
cloud without rain,
struggle without reaching,
call without being heard,
implore without being heeded,
groan without being comforted,
beg without being helped,
smolder without aroma,
see you without being fulfilled.
Hear me, Lord, before I cry out to you,
who alone are almighty,
Do not leave the wages of my suffering unrecompensed
for the tallied days of my life of sin,
wayward soul that I am.

D

Grant me life, compassionate Lord.
Hear me, merciful Lord.
Be charitable to me, forgiving Lord.
Save me, long-suffering Lord.
Protect me, defender Lord.
Be generous, all-giving Lord.
Free me, all-powerful Lord.
Revive me, restoring Lord.
Raise me again, awe-inspiring Lord.
Enlighten me, heavenly Lord.
Cure me, omnipotent Lord.
Grant pardon, inscrutable Lord.
Bestow gifts, bountiful Lord.
Adorn me with grace, generous Lord.
Let us be reconciled, healing Lord.
Be accepting, unvengeful Lord.
Wipe away my transgressions, blessed Lord,
so that on that Day of Misery,
when I stare at the abyss on either side,
I may also catch sight of your salvation,
my hope and guardian,
and on that terrifying journey
your angel of peace may sweetly guide me.

Endow me, Lord, on the day my breath is finished
with a clean spirit raised in light among
the joyful heavenly host,
with gifts of your love overtaking me.
May I arrive with the workers for justice.
Grant to my wayward soul an unexpected kindness
on that day of despair.
Do not assign, blessed Lord and Savior,
a wild beast to guide your sick sheep,
but grant me health, for I am dying of sin,
grant me salvation, for I am ruined by transgressions.

E

Will you, I wonder:
Forget to be charitable, my expectation?
Neglect to be compassionate, caring Lord?
Regret your charity toward humankind, constant Lord?
Retreat from your life-giving, everlasting Lord?
Abandon the cheerful fruit of your mercy?
Corrupt the gracious flower of your sweetness?
Dishonor the grandeur of your generous bounty?
Vary the glory of your white-haired exaltation?
Waste the fitting splendor of your crown?

If bliss is for the merciful,
then you, a kingdom unto yourself, filled with love,
will you not grant me full salvation?
Will you not offer a salve for my wounds?
Will you not minister to my pains?
Will you not cure my weakness?
Will you not shed light upon the darkness,
for me who trusts in your strength?

You, gift of life to the universe,
who alone have glory in oneself and of oneself,
whose everlasting being is witnessed by everything,
blessed and glorified through three eternities,
and beyond the limits of all conceivable infinities.

Amen.

Source: Prayer 1 from St. Grigor Narekatsi: Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

See Also:

More Christian Prayers

More Prayers Useful to Many faiths

All Prayers

Prayer and Spirituality Infocenter

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