If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink (Jn. 7:37).
Christ was not talking about physical thirst, and not about tangible water. No, he was talking about the thirst of our souls and of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive (Jn. 7:39). Thus, my brothers, besides physical thirst there is also in us spiritual thirst; and as necessary as food and drink are to the body, so does the soul need grace, which alone serves as its food, drink, and air, and replaces all life elements. We all know how to quench bodily thirst; but how can we quench the thirst of our soul, how can we fill the soul with the waters of the Holy Spirit? Not everyone knows how. And that is why a talk about this is not superfluous now, when each of us is calling out with the Church to the Lord: “Having come to the middle of feast, refresh my thirsting soul with the streams of piety”.
From the time that we were born of water and the spirit, having put on Christ and received the right to call God our Father, the means freely available to everyone for quenching our spiritual thirst is prayer to our heavenly Father. If ye then, says the Savior, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Lk. 11:9). Even if there be anything that the heavenly Father might refuse us, He will never refuse us the grace of the Holy Spirit, necessary for our eternal salvation. Every day we quench the thirst of our bodies, and not once but several times. Likewise every day we can and should quench the thirst of our souls through heartfelt prayer to God, that He send down to us the gifts of grace.
Another no less convenient means for attaining the same goal is reading the Word of God. Our sacred books were written by men—prophets and apostles—but they were written at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the very words in these books, are spirit, and they are life (Jn 6:63). And by reading them with living faith, assimilating them, we are naturally filled with the Spirit, refreshed with the breeze of His grace. If man lives by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, as the Savior testifies (Mt. 4:4), then even more so are the innumerable multitude of God’s words, gathered for us in divine revelation, able always to nourish us, give us to drink, and enliven our souls. We can make use of reading the Sacred Scripture for the quenching of our spiritual thirst just as often and daily as prayer to God.
There are also other extremely important means for the quenching of the thirst of our whole being—this is the communing of the most holy and live-creating mystery of the Eucharist. Whoso eateth my flesh, says the Lord, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life… For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed (Jn. 6:54:55). Eating the body and blood of our Savior, Who is Himself filled with grace (Jn. 1:14) and acquired it by His own merits for us, we partake of the very source of grace, And of his fulness have all we received, even grace for grace (Jn. 1:16). We cannot make use of this extreme means as constantly as prayer and reading of God’s Word, because the sacrament of the Eucharist always requires worthy preparation on our part. But we should take care that we prepare ourselves as often as possible for this most holy mystery and through it drink our fill of the streams of heavenly life.
Finally, also amongst the means for quenching our spiritual thirst we must count the drinking of natural waters that are sanctified by the rite of the Church, which we shall now also perform. The whole Church will pray to the heavenly Father that He sanctify the nature of the waters by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and through the immersion into the water of the live-creating cross, by which Christ acquired all spiritual gifts for us, the water is truly sanctified by grace. And therefore whoever drinks this sanctified water with faith will by quenching his bodily thirst with natural water invisibly give his soul to drink of the grace of the Holy Spirit, as if united with the water.
Thus, brothers, we have no right to complain that we have little means to quench our spiritual thirst, or that these means are not very accessible. We can make use of almost all of them continually. Only let us remember that one condition must always be met on our part: living faith. Whether we pray to the heavenly Father that He give us the Holy Spirit, read the Word of God, go to receive the mystery of the Eucharist, or drink blessed water, we must unfailingly believe. Only faith can open our soul to receive the grace-filled influence of the Holy Spirit; but without faith our soul remains as if imprisoned. In this sense did the Savior say, He that believeth on me shall never thirst (Jn. 6:35).