Sunday, April 12, 2015

Saint Grigor Narekats‘i (Gregory of Narek) : Doctor of the Church

Grigor Narekats‘i (Gregory of Narek). 
Գիրք աղօթից (Book of Prayers). 
Constantinople: Tparan Astuatsatrean, 1763. 
Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress 

Scenes from the Life of Grigor Narekats‘i 
Hakob, Armenian Patriarch of Constaninople. Մեկնութիւն աղօթից եւ երբողինաց սրբոյն Գրիգորի Նարեկացւոյ հրեշտակական վարդապետ (Commentary on the Prayers and Lamentations of Grigor Narekats‘i Divine Vardapet)
Constantinople: Norakazm Tparan, 1745. 
Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress 

Grigor Mlichetsi also called Skevratsi (c. 1150-1215) 
Grigor Narekatsi Prostrate before Christ 
From Grigor Narekatsi Matean Oghbergut'ean (The Book of Lamentations) 
15.4 x 11.5 cm
Fol. 177v Inv. Nr 1568
Matenadaran Institute of. Ancient Armenian Manuscripts, Erevan,

Saint Grigor Narekatsi, (950 - 1003) (Armenian: Գրիգոր Նարեկացի) Doctor of the Church, was a member of the Monastery of Narek on the shores of Lake Van, wrote his Book of Lamentations, commonly known as the Book of Prayers or Narek, in 1002. 

It comprises 95 elegiac poems each beginning with the words 'From the depths of the heart a conversation with God', and it gives expression to the mystical meditations of a deeply religious and fervent man, endowed with rare poetic gifts. 

The third image above is from a manuscript which  is the earliest dated copy of his work, which also includes the Life of St Grigor, compiled by Archbishop Nerses Lambronatsi (1153-98) 

Grigor Mlichetsi, the scribe, is known to have copied five manuscripts between 1173 and 1215, of which four were done in the scriptorium at the Monastery of Skevra under the hospitality of Nerses Lambronatsi 

Armenia was the first country to recognise Christianity as the official state religion in 301 AD, twelve years before Constantine's decree granting tolerance to Christianity within the Roman Empire. Ever since, Armenia has claimed the privilege of being the first Christian nation

Pope Francis formally proclaimed St Gregory as a Doctor of the Church at the same time as commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Saint Gregory of Narek, a monk of the tenth century, knew how to express the sentiments of your people more than anyone. He gave voice to the cry, which became a prayer, of a sinful and sorrowful humanity, oppressed by the anguish of its powerlessness, but illuminated by the splendour of God’s love and open to the hope of his salvific intervention, which is capable of transforming all things. 
“Through his strength I wait with certain expectation believing with unwavering hope that… I shall be saved by the Lord’s mighty hand and… that I will see the Lord himself in his mercy and compassion and receive the legacy of heaven” (Saint Gregory of Narek, Book of Lamentations, XII).
Your Christian identity is indeed ancient, dating from the year 301, when Saint Gregory the Illuminator guided Armenia to conversion and baptism. You were the first among nations in the course of the centuries to embrace the Gospel of Christ.   
That spiritual event indelibly marked the Armenian people, as well as its culture and history, in which martyrdom holds a preeminent place, as attested to symbolically by the sacrificial witness of Saint Vardan and his companions in the fifth century. 
Your people, illuminated by Christ’s light and by his grace, have overcome many trials and sufferings, animated by the hope which comes from the Cross (cf. Rom 8:31-39). As Saint John Paul II said to you, 
“Your history of suffering and martyrdom is a precious pearl, of which the universal Church is proud. Faith in Christ, man’s Redeemer, infused you with an admirable courage on your path, so often like that of the Cross, on which you have advanced with determination, intent on preserving your identity as a people and as believers” (Homily, 21 November 1987).
This faith also accompanied and sustained your people during the tragic experience one hundred years ago “in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century” (John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001). 
Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a “senseless slaughter” (AAS, IX [1917], 429), did everything in his power until the very end to stop it, continuing the efforts at mediation already begun by Pope Leo XIII when confronted with the “deadly events” of 1894-96. 
For this reason, Pope Benedict XV wrote to Sultan Mehmed V, pleading that the many innocents be saved (cf. Letter of 10 September 1915) and, in the Secret Consistory of 6 December 1915, he declared with great dismay, 
“Miserrima Armenorum gens ad interitum prope ducitur” (AAS, VII [1915], 510).

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