What do you all think of the Prayer of Manasseh
? I was able to find a few references to Manasseh in the Church Fathes (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 2, 14; St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 39, 17; Epistle 77), but not much. Anyone know of other references?
I've read that some manuscripts of the Septuagint included the Prayer of Manasseh as an appendix to the Psalms, and that it was included as an appendix in some versions of the Vulgate up till the 16th century. I've also read that one of the reasons that this text was rejected from the canon was the following statement: "Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee
" (emphasis mine).
This is one of my favorite prayers of all time and I love hearing it at Great Compline during Great Lent.
As far as your question goes, I would only suggest that Manasseh is simply stating how much he has sinned and that is so great that, by comparison, Abraham, Issac and Jacob have never sinned. As a corollary, I would reference St. Symeon the New Thelogians' prayer before communion where he states "that no one has sinned as I have in Thy sight." Now, although I'm sure Symeon did not sin much, but, in his eyes, and indeed in all of our eyes, we should look upon our sins as the greatest and that all other people are saints when compared to us. St. John Chrysostom, in his precommunion prayer, says that Christ "did come into the world to save sinners of whom I am first." With sin, we are all first. It is meant to be a protection lest we otherwise should condemn others since we have no right to do so.