The experience of hunger and thirst has a spiritual and metaphorical importance in the Scriptures and in the spiritual life. Through voluntary fasting, believers have sought out the experience of hunger and thirst to help them understand a spiritual quest for a relationship with God. St. Macarius the Great (d. 392AD) comments on the striving for a relationship with God that monks do.
“The more they perceive themselves advancing in spiritual perfection, the more do they hunger and thirst for a greater share of an increase in grace. And the richer they spiritually become, the poorer they consider themselves ,as they burn up interiorly with an insatiable, spiritual yearning for the Heavenly Bridegroom, as scripture says: ‘They that eat Me shall still be hungry and they that drink Me shall thirst’ (Sir 24:21).” (Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor, p 272)
Jesus son of Sirach offers in his wisdom book that eating and drinking of wisdom will increase the appetite and thirst. This is an image which St. Macarius feels describes the monastic life.
Jesus Himself called blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
However, unlike Sirach’s wisdom, Jesus claims that he is the fulfillment of such spiritual hunger and thirst.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
For Jesus Sirach, eating and drinking wisdom will leader to a hunger and thirst for more, while for Jesus Christ, one will find fulfillment, satisfaction and satiation in partaking of Him. In Christ, hunger and thirst are no more.
“Therefore are they before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night within his temple;
and he who sits upon the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water;
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”