The Book of Lamentations published in Lithuania

This week saw the publication and official launch of The Book of Lamentations. Written by Armenian monk St. Gregory of Narek, this book is considered to be a masterpiece of Armenian and Christian spiritual literature. The Honorary Consulate of Armenia in conjunction with its partners supported and actively contributed to the publishing of the book and its audio version in Lithuania.

The Book of Lamentations was written in the 10th century by St. Gregory Narekatsi (945–1003), also called St. Gregory of Narek, who was Armenian monk, as well as lyrical and mystical poet. In the medieval period, Armenians treasured this book as a holy work inspired by God which was second only to the Bible. Even today it is believed that the book can cure the most serious diseases and deep spiritual angst when placed under a pillow. It is a masterpiece of Armenian and Christian literature which is often compared to The Confessions by St. Augustine.

Today, The Book of Lamentations is regarded as a unique work of metaphysical poetry, a book of prayers with strong mystical power. Masterfully translated by Sigitas Geda and re-published by Odilė, this work accompanied by an audio book can now be discovered by Lithuanian readers as a trusted source of spiritual healing amidst this chaotic world. After all, the prayers of Narekatsi were his deliberate attempts to help alleviate suffering of the humanity and to bring people to God and God to people. At the same time, The Book of Lamentations is an in-depth study of the human soul. The author of the book believed that the knowledge of the self is the key to the knowledge of God.

Gregory, who came from the Armenian family of nobles and clergymen, spent most of his life in the Monastery of Narek where he studied and interpreted the Bible, the books by the Fathers of the Church, Greek philosophers and writers, as he passionately sought to establish a personal dialogue with God and tried to bring the humanity closer to God. Gregory Narekatsi is venerated as a saint both in the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches. In 2015, Pope Francis proclaimed him as a Doctor of the Church, or Doctor Ecclesiae.

The earliest manuscript of The Book of Lamentations dates back to the 12th century. It was only in the 12th century that this Armenian book was first published. It has been translated into English, Russian, Arabic, Persian, French, Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian languages. The Lithuanian edition is unique in that it is accompanied by an audio book prepared by director Giedrius Zubavičius, where readers will be able to listen to the ancient Armenian religious songs, the musical pieces composed by Narekatsi himself as well as other composers, and the verses from The Book of Lamentations voiced by actors Vladas Bagdonas, Vytautas Rumšas, and actress Aldona Bronislava Dausienė. The publication also contains the copies of the unique miniatures depicting St. Gregory Narekatsi from the manuscript dating back to 1173.

In one of his prayers, St. Gregory Narekatsi writes:
“Those who will read
These pleas and prayers,
Chanted in a lamenting voice,
An old man, a teenager, a young man or a girl,
One of the servant maids who pray with love,
Let them receive their share of grace and forgiveness for their sins
From you, our graceful Lord,
Let them dwell in the immaculate purity and in the sublime,
As they recreate your image.”

Translated by Sigitas Geda
Design by Narine Beglaryan
Graphic design by Ovidijus Talijūnas

Odilė publishing house would like to express its sincere thanks to Armenian Ambassador Tigran Mkrtchyan who is behind the initiative to publish this book, as well as to the following sponsors: the Diocese of Baltic States of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Archdiocese of Vilnius, the Armenian Honorary Consulate in Vilnius and Kaunas, and the Armenian Community in Lithuania. Special thanks to project partner MA NO BOOKS and the director behind the audio book, Giedrius Zubavičius.