Saint Gregory of Narek
Another Saint of the Day for April 12
Saint Gregory of Narek’s Story
As the world observed the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, Pope Francis concelebrated a Mass at the Vatican with Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni and declared this monk, poet, and saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church a Doctor of the Church.
When Armenia was the first nation officially to become Christian, the Roman Empire still considered Christianity an illegal religion. Gregory’s father was an archbishop; soon after Gregory’s mother died, he was raised by a cousin. Gregory entered the Narek monastery, a very active center of learning on Lake Van in modern-day Turkey. He taught in its school.
Gregory wrote a mystical interpretation of the Song of Songs and a long mystical poem entitled Book of Prayer, also known as the Book of Lamentations. He described it “an encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” This classic of Armenian literature has been translated into 30 languages. The Russian text was set to music in 1985.
The Armenian Apostolic Church did not accept the Council of Chalcedon’s teaching in 451 about Christ as fully divine and fully human. The Armenian Catholic Church began in the 17th century. In 1996, St. John Paul II and Apostolic Catholicos Karekin I signed a declaration about the common faith of these two Churches. And on February 21, 2015, Pope Francis declared Saint Gregory a Doctor of the Church.
Prayer often unites groups of people who have seen themselves as very distinct—even enemies.