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St. Gregory of Narek

St. Gregory of Narek (950–1003) is revered as the greatest figure of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. He came from a family of religious scholars—his father was a bishop and his uncle an abbot of the monastery of Narek. Gregory quickly surpassed them when he studied everything from music and literature to astronomy and geometry at the monastery. He wrote discourses, poems, chants, doxologies, and commentaries. Many of his works are included in the Divine Liturgy celebrated each Sunday in Armenian churches. His most famous work, however, is The Book of Lamentations, containing 95 chapters united under the theme of “Conversations with God from the depths of the heart.” The book tries to put into words the sighs of the broken and contrite heart. It is considered a “new” book of psalms that encompasses the range of human frailty and emotions. It seeks to guide its readers toward reconciliation with God through a series of all-embracing prayers, rich in imagery, and resonating with Biblical allusions. The book is said to have special healing powers, especially Prayer 18. As a result, The Book of Lamentations often is placed under the pillow of a sick person.

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