So, the Lenten fast begins. What a relief! When Jesus was confronted by the devil on the Mount of Temptation, during His fasting and ascetical labors, Satan first tried to interest Him the same way he had the first humans in the garden. Through the belly.
Why not? In comparison to the bodiless nature of angels, even fallen ones, human beings are little more than animals, right? When hungry, close to starving even, doesn’t every animal want food for the belly above all else? And he or she will use every ounce of intelligence to serve that end.
Jacob counted on that same expected reaction in order to hoodwink his older twin brother Esau when he came home hungry from an unsuccessful hunt. Esau, captive for a tragic instance to what the Holy Fathers call gastromargia, (literally “madness, or raging of the belly”) agreed to give away his paternal blessing for a single bowl of soup. At the moment, as is true for most every passion that takes us captive, obtaining temporary satisfaction from what is desired is all that seems to matter. In such beguilement, life is always reduced to the desire for a taste of that single voluptuous apple, whatever it may be, that is so immediate and so easily obtainable, just for the taking, regardless of whether we have a blessing or not…
Jesus understood otherwise. His response to the provocation was to declare that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4) At another time when He was hungry and thirsty and His disciples had returned from buying food, they urged Jesus to satisfy His obvious hunger, but He said, “I have food to eat you know nothing about.” (Jn. 4:32). Hmmm…
Before the disciples arrived, Jesus had been talking with the Samaritan woman about a meaning to life so far beyond this world that he had told her anyone who discovered it would no longer need to come and draw water from Jacob’s well, but would have a deeper thirst awakened and quenched from an endless stream of living water. At first, she could only think of the practical consequences of not having to make the daily journey to get water from the well, but slowly, in a way she couldn’t quite fathom, a different meaning began to arise and change her life and all her relationships with people in the community where she lived.
Jesus had similar conversations with the disciples about bread, “but they did not understand about the loaves because their hearts were hardened.” (Mk 6:52). Hardened hearts always have more interest in a bowl of soup, something good to drink and a pleasure to enjoy, than in the struggle to discover living water and the thirst that it alone can quench. “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness for you shall be filled.” (Mt. 5:6)
“But where do you get this living water?” (Jn. 4:11) the Samaritan woman asked. Viktor Frankl, the eminent Swiss psychiatrist, pioneer of logotherapy and author of the existential classic Man’s Search for Meaning, once had a conversation with another famous psychotherapist whose pyramid of basic human needs has become known to every beginning psychology student as “Maslow’s hierarchy.”
In its simplest form, Maslow suggested what every relief agency knows—that the physical survival needs of persons must be tended to before the more intangible needs such as reflecting on life’s meaning and religious themes can be approached. Not exactly, according to Viktor Frankl’s grandson, who in a recent interview pointed out
“my grandfather disagreed. He told Maslow how people did not have their “basic” needs met in the concentration camps, but it was the “higher” needs (i.e., meanings, love, and values) that proved to be much more relevant to their chance of survival. Maslow revised his ideas and said, “Frankl is right.” My grandfather emphasized that it’s not about “having what you need to live” but asking yourself, “What am I living for?” The most affluent societies have all their basic needs met, but they lack something to live for, and neurotic disorders tend to increase.” 
St. Isaac the Syrian, along with a host of other neptic pilgrims who awakened to the hunger and thirst for a food that cannot be plucked from a tree and for the living water of the Spirit that cannot be drawn from a well, had this to say about the easy way of spiritual illusion that leads to complacency, stagnation and hubris, while the more difficult way of ascetical restraint, patient endurance in faith and spiritual sobriety born of repentance, leads to a transfigured life nourished by the divine noetic energies of uncreated Grace.
“If you suffer no lack in anything you need, your body is healthy and no adversities threaten you, and if you say that, with all this, you can advance towards Christ in purity, then know that your mind is sick and you are deprived of the taste of Divine glory.” 
The way that leads to eternal life begins in this life but does not end here. Contentment with a worldly life is a barrier to the treasure of eternal life in Christ. For this reason, trials and even death come upon us as a mercy of God to cure us of our madness and preoccupation with what merely satisfies our animal nature.
Frankl realized in the obligatory deprivations and humiliations of the concentration camps, that strangely, survival belonged to those who learned to hunger and thirst for something they could not be deprived of; something “thieves could not break in and steal” and “neither rust nor moth could destroy.” (Mt: 6:19-20)
St. Isaac’s counsel is a good one for Lenten pilgrims seeking a taste of the finer things of the Spirit.
“While you are still on your way to the city of the kingdom, let this be for you a sign that you are drawing near to the city of God: that you meet powerful trials; and the nearer you draw and the more you progress, the more trials multiply and assail you…for God leads the soul into suffering trials in exact proportion to the grace He bestows.” 
Glory to Thee O Lord, Giver of all good and perfect gifts, Who offers Your own limitless and eternal life and joy to all who in freedom, faith and love seek You for Yourself alone. According to the great mercy which You have freely offered us in order to make it possible for us to seek You and to sustain us in our zig-zagging search. May the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa become true for us before we take our last breath:
“Those who seek God constantly, have found Him.
 Grace, F. “Viktor Frankl and the Search for Meaning: A Conversation with Alexander Vesely and Mary Cimiluca”, Parabola, Vol 42(1), Spring 2017.
 Kadloubovsky, E. and Palmer, G.E. H. (eds.) Early Fathers form the Philokalia, Londond: Faber & Faber, 1976, p. 280.
 Ibid, pp. 263-264.