St. Gregory of Narek
The doctor of mercy
Although venerated and celebrated by Armenians as one of our greatest saints and poets, St. Gregory of Narek was not well known outside of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. But on April 12, 2015—the Sunday of Divine Mercy—he received a broader recognition and prominence when Pope Francis declared him a Doctor of the Church. Now he is ranked with the other thirty-five Doctors—important Christian theologians and spiritual masters like Augustine, Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Hildegard of Bingen—whose writings have been deemed of great benefit to the Church and its teachings.
Gregory was born in the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan sometime between 940 and 950. After his mother’s death when Gregory was still very young, he and his brother were entrusted to the care of the newly-founded monastery of Narek on the southern shore of Lake Van. There he made his monastic vows and was ordained a priest. His most notable literary achievement was the monumental Book of Lamentation, a collection of 95 prayers “spoken from the depths of his heart.” But he also wrote biblical commentaries, a theological treatise, and countless hymns and poems. The monastery of Narek was abandoned at the beginning of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and was subsequently destroyed.
In an attempt to make Gregory’s life and theology accessible to English readers unfamiliar with the Armenian Church, I have completed a book, St. Gregory of Narek: The Spiritual Treasures of the Doctor of Mercy. Details on its publication will be forthcoming. Here’s a brief excerpt on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
And here‘s an essay on St. Gregory’s teachings on confession and mercy.