Image: Mosaic of Gregory of Narek
Saint of the Day for March 27
Saint Gregory of Narek’s Story
Gregor was born in a village on the shores of Lake Van between 945 and 950. His father, an archbishop died around xx. When his mother died Gregor and his older brother were raised by a scholarly uncle who had them educated at the Narek monastery where he was a monk. The monastery was a prominent center of learning located in what is now Turkey. Gregor too entered the monastery and was ordained in 977.
A professor of theology, Gregor wrote a mystical interpretation of the Song of Songs, and a long mystical poem called the Book of Prayer or the Book of Lamentations. He described his poem as “an encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” This classic of Armenian literature has been translated into 30 languages. The Russian text of the Book of Lamentations was set to music in 1985.
Little else is known about Gregor, other than he died in the early 11th century and was buried within the walls of the Narek monastery where he had spent his life. In 2015 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 the monk, poet, and saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Church. His liturgical feast is celebrated on February 27.
As opposed to the Armenian Catholic Church that began in the 17th century, the earlier Armenian Apostolic Church did not accept the Council of Chalcedon’s 451 teaching that Christ was fully divine and fully human. In 1996, St. John Paul II and Apostolic Catholicos Karekin I signed a declaration confirming the common faith of their two Churches. Prayer often unites groups of people who have seen themselves as very distinct—even enemies.