In the seventh prayer of the preparatory service for Holy Communion we pray: "You know the multitude of my evil-doings, You also know my wounds, and You see my bruises. But You also know my faith, and You behold my willingness, and You hear my sighs. Nothing escapes You, my God, my Maker, my Redeemer, not even a tear-drop, nor part of a drop!”
The belief that God sees into the depths of every human heart is found in many parts of the Bible, as well as in our Orthodox worship:
- The prophet Jeremiah says that only God knows the heart of man (see Jeremiah 17:10).
- The Psalmist exclaims: O righteous God who searches hearts and minds (Psalm 7:9).
- At the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, St. Peter speaks of God as the knower of hearts in order to convince the delegates of how God, who knows the hearts of men, had given a sign that former pagans can be saved the same as the Israelites (See. Acts 15:8).
- When the Apostles and first Christians of Jerusalem met in order to elect a new Apostle to replace Judas, who betrayed Christ, they began the meeting with the following prayer: “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” (Acts 1:24-25).
- Our Church uses the term ”knower of hearts” in the prayers and hymns of our common prayers, such as in Great Compline: “O you who know our hearts, spare our souls. (The prayer that follows the “Lord of the Powers…”).
Almighty God knows better than ourselves the depths of our heart. Nothing remains secret to God.
However, our Lord uses this knowledge exclusively for our good, as we can see many examples of, in particular the case of the Samaritan woman.
St. John the Evangelist writes that Jesus sat down near Jacob’s Well to rest from His travels. His Disciples had gone into the city to buy some food. A woman from Samaria appeared not long after in order to draw water. In the ensuing conversation, Jesus revealed to her that he knew of her adulterous living situation. Why? He did this not to offend her or condemn her, but rather to lead her to salvation by helping her see that He is the Messiah. She not only found salvation for herself (she is known as St. Photini, Equal-to-the-Apostles), but also her brothers, children, and many others (See John 4:6 and beyond).
The Lord acted in a similar way towards the paralytic of Bethesda. At the time of the man’s healing, many were gathered around. The Lord did not speak at all about the sinful life he previously lived, as he wanted to protect the once afflicted man from these sins going forward. Later, when Jesus met the former paralytic, he told him: “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14). The Holy Fathers teach that the “worse thing” in the Lord’s words is not only related to the body, but rather the state of the paralytic’s soul. The greater concern here is the state of the soul in eternity, rather than any physical affliction. As long as we live in this world, the Lord gives us many opportunities to improve our spiritual state and be cleansed of our sins. If we neglected or refused to live a life of repentance as God wills, then our future condition will be horrible, indeed. This is because on Judgment Day, all of the sins which we have not confessed and are not forgiven will be revealed before all (both men and angels). When that moment comes, the consequences for the unrepentant will be disastrous and eternal. This is the worst thing that can ever happen to a person, and the most painful disease or affliction is nothing compared to this tragic outcome.
My dear brothers and sisters, when we are constantly aware that the sleepless eye of God sees deep into our hearts and knows everything, we will be compelled not to let anything harmful or unclean enter within us. This realization will motivate us to beautify our hearts with every virtue that pleases God. At the same time, we will not feel anxious about anything that might happen to us. The Lord loves us, and sees what is in our hearts. He can see our love for Him, our spiritual struggle, and our desire to live according to His will. So if we should fall into one sin or another, He understands our weaknesses and will comfort us. He will give us the strength to stand on our feet again, and move forward.
Let us constantly purify our hearts, so that our Lord will see it, and be pleased to dwell within us. Amen.