I'm certain of this - that if my conscience were burdened with all the sins it's possible to commit, I would still go and throw myself into our Lord's arms, my heart all broken up with contrition; I know what tenderness He has for any prodigal son of His who comes back to Him.
-Therese of Lisieux
But we must remind ourselves that repentance is not bearing guilt, but calling for mercy and healing.
The Seven Penitential Psalms
King David in Letter O, Fra Angelico, 1443-45
Miserere mei, Deus
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
And so you are justified when you speak and upright in your judgment.
Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my motherís womb.
For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
David watches Bathesheba bathe, Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
I shall teach your ways to the wicked, and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from death, O God, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.
David pointing to his lips, Unknown Illuminator, Burnet Psalter, Early 15th century
Open my lips, O God, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Be favorable and gracious to Zion, and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with the appointed sacrifices, with burnt-offerings and oblations; then shall they offer young bullocks upon your altar.