An important part of the Orthodox prayer life is repentance, weeping for sins, seeking forgiveness. To many it seems incomprehensible, depressive, humiliating ... In fact it is the proclamation of the greatest dignity and the greatest hope. Why in Orthodox prayers is constantly spoken about the sinfulness of man?
For a variety of reasons, only some of which we will denote.
1. First of all, because this is the real state of affairs - a person is sinful, spoiled and guilty. He desperately needs salvation - and God in Christ gives this salvation. But in order to accept salvation, you need to recognize your need for it - about the same as how to accept treatment, you need to agree with the diagnosis.
Relations with God can not be built on the basis of deception - and we must admit the truth about ourselves. As Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh says, God can save the sinners that we are, but not the righteous with whom we imagine ourselves.
2. God can save any sinners and evildoers, His mercy is inexhaustible, but the man himself can tightly close - refusing to acknowledge his sins. This is the nature of sin, that we are highly inclined to do it - to honor ourselves as righteous, and sinners - anyone else. Therefore, we constantly recognize before God in prayer - we are sinners, guilty, irresistibly inclined to all evil and insanity, alienated from God for His sins and restored in communion with Him only by His grace and grace, thanks to the Cross offering of Jesus Christ. This should help us to keep from the constant slide to self-righteousness and self-confidence, to which we are all inclined. Imagine a man who is inclined to think that he is Napoleon - he has to constantly return to the idea that he, in fact, is not Napoleon, but just a person with certain problems that needs help. So pride and self-righteousness are constant threats in the spiritual life.
3. Attempts to live righteously immediately reveal our tendency - there is a good word - "obedience" to sin and an incredible capacity for self-deception, when we give out some of our passions and vices for virtues, aggression and xenophobia - for jealousy about the right faith, promiscuity - for love , pride - for adherence to principles and so on. The tradition of the Church teaches us not to believe in ourselves - but to understand that the sinful nature will constantly drag us somewhere to the side. When we once again want to accept, for example, hatred for our neighbor for noble indignation, our prayer tradition should remind - no, you are not an angel with a shining sword, you are a poor sinner.
4. Love for one's neighbor - as soon as we try to manifest it - will require a lot of patience with regard to his sins and shortcomings. And here a constant reminder is important - you are a sinner yourself, you yourself live in a glass house, not to throw stones at you. You can help a friend of a person as a sick person, but not judge him as a prosecutor of the accused.
But is this constant reminder of sin not destroying the dignity of man?
Exactly the opposite. The acute experience of sin inevitably follows from the Christian notion of the greatness of man. Let me give you an example - say, you see a miserable drunkard who muttering some kind of curses with a stumbling tongue. Now imagine that you have learned that this person, in a past life, was a brilliant scientist and a Nobel prize laureate. You will be especially horrified by his present condition, precisely in contrast to what he was before. If the Crown Prince became a thief, his fall is especially terrible precisely because he is the crown prince. He was destined for a completely different life.
Our faith assimilates to a person the highest dignity - that is why sin is so terrible.
If we remain within the framework of unbelief and believe that man is a side effect of some senseless and purposeless natural forces, just a highly developed animal, then it would be strange to expect something different from him than from an animal. Animals compete for a place in a pack - and people, animals eat each other - and people. As the character of a movie said, "there is such a science - philosophy. All living things chew on each other. " With such a view of the world, the acute consciousness of sinfulness is simply nowhere to be tackled - well, beast, but what would you like?
But if we believe that man is created by a good and loving God, in His image and likeness, that man is the crown of creation, designed to reflect the love, wisdom and beauty of his Creator, then the present state of man is catastrophic, and this applies not only to other people, which we can easily recognize as bad, but also to ourselves. If we set ourselves a low ethical level, we are still very much - especially since there will always be some people who are even worse than us. But if we proceed from the reality of creation, then we are really low and scary fell.
If you are the crown prince of creation, then your current state is terrible, if just a naked monkey - what can you ask of a monkey?
Thus, the belief in a good God who has predestinated us to eternal life, love, glory and greatness, involves faith in human guilt and corruption, and we express this faith in prayer.
The prayer for forgiveness is much more bold than praise, worship, or petition. When we ask for the remission of sins, we thereby claim that the Creator of all these innumerable galaxies is deeply concerned about our behavior, awaits our repentance and is ready to accept it. When we say, "And according to the multitude of thy bounties purify my iniquity," we profess a deeply personal relationship with the Almighty-like a prodigal son or an unfaithful wife (both of these uses Scripture).
The prodigal son remembers that he has a Father - and the penitential prayer proceeds from the fact that the Creator of the universe is really Our Father.