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Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for right­eous­ness, for they shall be sat­is­fied.” (Matthew 5:6) Strict­ly speak­ing, this beat­i­tude of the Lord bless­es, not the right­eous, but the seek­ers of right­eous­ness. It is those who are hun­gry and thirsty for what is just and good who receive the bless­ings of God who also says:

Do not be anx­ious, say­ing “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we wear?” For the hea­then seek all these things; and your heav­en­ly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His king­dom and its right­eous­ness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matthew 6:31–33)

Man’s life con­sists in seek­ing, in hun­ger­ing and in thirst­ing for right­eous­ness. This is the spir­i­tu­al teach­ing of the scrip­tures and the saints. The sat­is­fac­tion and rest comes from God, but is a sat­is­fac­tion and rest which itself always and for eter­ni­ty becomes the basis of a new hunger and thirst. This is not in con­tra­dic­tion to Christ’s teach­ing that “he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall nev­er thirst.” (John 6:35) It is rather the affir­ma­tion that the “inqui­et” of man’s heart, as Saint Augus­tine (5th c.) has said, is cre­at­ed “toward God,” and that the “rest” which is found in Him is itself, as Saint Max­imus (7th c.) has said, an “ever-dynam­ic rest,” always grow­ing and devel­op­ing in ever greater union with the uncon­tain­able and inex­haustible rich­ness and full­ness of divine being and life.

Saint Gre­go­ry of Nys­sa (4th c.) said it this way:

… the human mind … con­stant­ly flow­ing and dis­pers­ing to what­ev­er pleas­es the sens­es… will nev­er have any notable force in its progress towards the True Good. (i.e. God)

For it is impos­si­ble for our human nature ever to stop mov­ing; it has been made of its Cre­ator ever to keep chang­ing. Hence when we pre­vent it from

using its ener­gy on tri­fles, and keep it on all sides from doing what it should not, it must nec­es­sar­i­ly move in a straight path towards truth. (On Vir­gin­i­ty)

Thus, in a cer­tain sense, it (our human­i­ty) is con­stant­ly being cre­at­ed, ever chang­ing for the bet­ter in its growth in per­fec­tion; along these lines no lim­it can be envis­aged, nor can its pro­gres­sive growth in per­fec­tion be lim­it­ed by any term. In this way, in its state of per­fec­tion no mat­ter how great and per­fect it may be, it is mere­ly the begin­ning of a greater and supe­ri­orstage. (Com­men­tary on the Song of Songs)

This spir­i­tu­al teach­ing means that the tru­ly spir­i­tu­al per­son will not mere­ly move from unright­eous­ness to right­eous­ness, but will move for all eter­nitv in God to ever-greater right­eous­ness and per­fec­tion, The hunger and thirst in this way is an essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tic of the liv­ing soul of the right­eous per­son; it is the essen­tial dynam­ic of spir­i­tu­al life. The Apos­tle Paul has giv­en this very doc­trine:

… But one thing I do, for­get­ting what lies behind, and strain­ing for­ward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus mind­ed … (Philip­pi­ans 3:13–16) And we all, with unveiled faces, reflect­ing the glo­ry of the Lord, are being changed into His like­ness from one degree of glo­ry to anoth­er; for this comes from the Lord who is the spir­it. (2 Corinthi­ans 3:18)

There is no sat­is­fac­tion for man’s spir­it but God. It is the sat­is­fac­tion of per­pet­u­al growth in union with God. To hunger and thirst for God, “for the liv­ing God” (Psalm 42:2) is spir­i­tu­al life. To be filled and con­tent­ed with any­thing else is death for the soul.