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Prayer 55

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

On the wings of my soul I have soared
through endless generations of mankind,
weighing them in the scales of my rational mind.
I found none my equal in sin.
Therefore, I have adopted the Psalm of David
as my theme,
like a stern reprimand delivered with the overseer’s staff,
“Who equals me in my wrongdoing and iniquity?”1
And since these words literally apply to me,
a mortal man,
I again testify against myself under oath,
roundly condemning myself
rather than letting others be banished for my words,
so that perhaps you might pardon me,
forgiver of my sins.2

B

Now, here in this book, what prayers,
what fragrant incense
shall I offer pleasing and acceptable to you,
blessed heavenly king Christ?
If not a prayer that you bless those I have cursed,
release those I have bound, free the condemned,
comfort the outcast, reconcile the antagonized,
console the mournful, heal the afflicted,
care for the shunned, protect the betrayed,
minister to the souls of those whose bodies are wounded.
Thus, when I greet people with blessings, hear me,
and when with curses, pay no attention,
compassionate Lord.

C

I am most wretchedly tormented,
the least of those who pray to you with this book.
I have forgiven my debtors with all my soul,
so that you might block the cruel wishes of
my spiteful voice.
And on my knees repeatedly, I have prayed,
with all my heart, for reconciliation with those who
have betrayed me.
I pray for them along with those who have
shown kindness.3
For as you are greater than I,
may you visit a comparable portion of mercy upon me,
praiseworthy guardian,
you who are life for mortals like me,
strength for the frail,
might for the unsteady,
fountain of wisdom for the stupefied.
For I am always stumbling in error,
like an inexperienced diver in dark waters,
unwittingly in the snare of death,
I did not comprehend the danger.
I did not recognize the trap.
I did not see the hidden devices for capturing the quarry.
I did not suspect camouflaged traps.
I did not sense the ambush on all sides.
I did not feel the hostage-taking fishhook net.4
As the Psalmist said,
“Evils visited me, and I was unable to recognize them.” 5

D

And as a certain foreign philosopher aptly said,
“Evil is death that comes without warning or reason.” 6
I shall confirm it in my own case:
Like dumb cattle,
we die, but are not terrified.
We perish, but are not astonished.
We are buried, but are not humbled.
We are shunned, but are not contrite.
We are corrupted, but are not regretful.
We are worn down, but do not care.
We are robbed, but we do not gather ourselves.
We proceed, but without precautions.
We are enslaved, but are not aware.

E

That happy man, Job, called mortal death rest,7
and with that holy man I too would agree,
had I not the heavy burden of mortal deeds and
were I not on the path of the hidden traps, where
the trapsetter is invisible,
the present is non-existent,
the past unknown, and the future questionable,
I am impatient and my nature is skeptical,
my legs shaky and my mind reeling,
my passions are unruly and my habits intemperate,
my body is laced with sin and my inclinations toward the worldly,
my rebelliousness innate and my character contradictory,
my dwelling clay and the rain pelting,
my needs innumerable and perils on all sides,
my mind fond of evil and my desires hating the good,8
my life ephemeral and my joys rare,
my delusion stupefying and my pastimes childish,
my work vain and my pleasures illusory,
my hoarding is of nothing and my storehouse filled with the wind,
my likeness is of a shadow and my image ridiculous.
For when the command came,9
as St. Paul wrote,
it found me unprepared.
Sin came alive when confronted by justice
and I died for life and came alive for death.

F

As the Good Book foretold10
alien, evil forces, stole the wise treasure of my heart.
Wisdom waned in me, as the Proverb teller says,
and evil impulses waxed.11
I did not fix the eye of my soul on the head of
my life, Christ,
who would have led me down the straight path.
For in trying to run too quickly, I dug myself in deeper.
In trying to reach the unreachable, I failed to reach my own level.
In pretending to greatness, I slipped from where I was.
From the heavenly path, I sank to the abyss.12
Trying to avoid harm, I was permanently debilitated.
Trying to be completely pure, I was
corrupted completely.
I dodged to the left, and left myself open from the right.
Chasing the second, I lost the first.
Seeking the insignificant, I forfeited the important.
Keeping the small vow, I broke the covenant.
Trying to break a habit, I picked up a vice.
Avoiding the petty, I fell prey to the weighty.
What I did, I did to myself,
which is the worst testimony against me.
Only you are able to deliver me, a captive slave,
from these things,
restoring to life a soul devoted to death.
For you alone, Lord Christ, revered doer of good,
with the boundless glory of the Father and
the Holy Spirit are
blessed forever and ever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Ps. 94 (Arm 93):16 (Armenian version).

  2 ...... Mt. 6:12, 14, 15.

  3 ...... Mt. 5:44.

  4 ...... Ps. 140 (Arm 139):5.

  5 ...... Ps. 40 (Arm 39):12.

  6 ...... Commentators differ on the identity of this reference. Some cite evidence from Davit Anhaght that these lines refer to Plato and his dialogue Phaedo. Others believe it is based on a citation from Eghishe, History of the War of Vartan, p. 14). Critical Edition, p. 1063, n. 4.

  7 ...... Job 3:22.

  8 ...... Gen. 8:21.

  9 ...... Rom. 7:9-11.

  10 ...... Job 17:2 (Armenian version).

  11 ...... Pr. 30:2-3.

  12 ...... Is. 14:13-15.