Saint of the Day – 27 February -St Gregory of Narek/Doctor of the Church (951 – 1003) Armenian monk, poet, mystical philosopher, theologian and saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Catholic Church, born into a family of writers. Based in the monastery of Narek (Narekavank), he was “Armenia’s first great poet”and as “the watchful angel in human form”
Born circa 950 to a family of scholarly churchmen, St. Gregory entered Narek Monastery on the south-east shore of Lake Van at a young age. Shortly before the first millennium of Christianity, Narek Monastery was a thriving center of learning. These were the relatively quiet, creative times before the Turkic and Mongol invasions that changed Armenian life forever. Armenia was experiencing a renaissance in literature, painting, architecture and theology, of which St. Gregory was a leading figure. The Prayer Book is the work of his mature years. He called it his last testament: “its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” St. Gregory left this world in 1003, but his voice continues to speak to us.
Written shortly before the first millennium of Christianity, the prayers of St. Gregory of Narek have long been recognized as gems of Christian literature. St. Gregory called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer by people of all stations around the world.
A leader of the well-developed school of Armenian mysticism at Narek Monastery, at the request of his brethren he set out to find an answer to an imponderable question: what can one offer to God, our creator, who already has everything and knows everything better than we could ever express it? To this question, posed by the prophets, psalmist, apostles and saints, he gives a humble answer – the sighs of the heart – expressed in his Book of Prayer, also called the Book of Lamentations.
In 95 grace-filled prayers St. Gregory draws on the exquisite potential of the Classical Armenian language to translate the pure sighs of the broken and contrite heart into an offering of words pleasing to God The result is an edifice of faith for the ages, unique in Christian literature for its rich imagery, its subtle theology, its Biblical erudition and the sincere immediacy of its communication with God.
Gregory of Narek is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and is particularly venerated among Catholics of the Armenian rite. His name is listed among the saints for 27 February in the Martyrologium Romanum.
Pope John Paul II referred to Gregory of Narek in several addresses as well as in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater and in his Apostolic Letter for the 1,700th Anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People.
He is mentioned by name in Article 2678 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
On 21 February 2015, it was announced that Saint Gregory of Narek would be named a Doctor of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis. His being given this title was not an equipollent canonisation since he had already been listed as a saint in the Martyrologium Romanum. On 12 April 2015, Divine Mercy Sunday, during a Mass for the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, Pope Francis officially proclaimed Gregory of Narek as Doctor of the Church.
St. Gregory’s proclamation as a Doctor of the Church was commemorated by the Vatican City state with a postage stamp issued September 2, 2015.