THE POOR WILL EAT AND BE SATISFIED - interpretation of prayer before dinner

“The poor will eat and be satisfied, all who seek the Lord will praise him, their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.” (Ps. 21, 27)

           The text of this wonderful prayer, adopted by the Church of Christ for prayer before supper, is almost a thousand years older than Christianity itself. It was taken from the 21st Psalm, also called the Messianic Psalm because of a clear prophecy about the suffering of the Messiah Jesus Christ. Blessed St. Prophet and emperor David described in detail in this psalm both the suffering of Christ and the salvation of that distress (reigned 1005-965 B.C.).

The words “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? ”Begins this Psalm. All humanity has felt this blasphemy since Adam’s sin and expulsion from Paradise. Adam was exiled from Paradise in the evening and this exile was accompanied by the natural darkness of the night. Grieves and sorrows of St. Prophet David said, “God! Thou art my God, unto thee early, my soul thirsteth for thee; after thee is my flesh longed for in a land of thirst, thirst and waterlessness ”(Ps. 62,1). And the most natural movement of the Godhead of the human soul is the movement towards God, the movement for man to meet his Creator face to face and to be satisfied by seeing the beauty of the Face of God. By the transgression of the commandments of God, the covenant of the love of God and men was struck down; sin formed the abyss that separated the Creator and man. The curse of the law accused and testified that no sinful man could see the righteous God and stay alive. The Messiah’s job was to redeem us from the curse of the Law and put us back in the hands of the Creator.

The blasphemy felt by the sinner, the transgressor of the law of God, is grave. But it is fair for him to be blasphemous. But of this blasphemy is the blasphemy that the righteous feels. In the greatest strain to fulfill the will of God and to please God, the righteous feels the greatest blasphemy. The Lord seems to have hidden His Face from Him, and the righteous sees no reason for His blasphemy and sighs: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? “. And having poured a bitter glass of humiliation into the hands of the Father, he delivered his spirit.  In the humiliation of Christ, our condemnation was lifted, the barrier that separated us from God was lifted.  

Two different tones are observed in the psalm. In the first part of Psalm 1-22, the agony of the righteous suffering for salvation is emphasized. That Righteous One is the Messiah Christ. Almost a thousand years in advance, the Holy Prophet and Emperor David foretold in detail the suffering of the Messiah. In the second part of Psalm 22nd verse to the end is dominated by a tone of victory, triumph and celebration. It is the tone of the New Testament, or the New Covenant of God with men.

In the Septuagint, the word “poor” was used to mean the word “poor”.  Although the word “Eat Poor” (“Φάγονται πένητες”) is not to be understood here in terms of the social category of the poor. These poor are, in fact, nil in spirit, those who believe and live the truth that they are made of nothing and are nothing without God. Such poor, such nothing in spirit is the Kingdom of Heaven.

And what will it eat and be satisfied with? And what is the food for which they will praise God and for which they will have a living heart for ever and ever? It is evident that the words of this verse are the mouth of St. Prophet David himself speaks of the crucified Messiah from the Cross and that he offers his body as “dry bread” for the life of the world It is “the bread of God that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn.  6.33). In the words of Christ, “I am the bread of life: whoever comes to me will not hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn.  6.35).

One philosopher said, “Man is what he eats”.  Eating is a sign that man is a created being, that he is not alone, that he is not self-made, that he needs food in matter outside himself. But they get hungry again from such food. And who eats that Holy meal and drink, that is. All that Communion, he becomes the bone of the bone of Christ, the flesh of the flesh of Christ, the blood of the blood Christ, by the flesh he becomes the brother of the God-man Christ. Through this Body of His Son in us, God the Father knows us as His sons and is given the authority to call Him “Our Father”. Christ is the only time of our adoption to God, witnessed by Christ Himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn.  14, 6).

In the evening Adam was banished from Paradise and deprived of community and communion with God. In the evening the Lord Jesus Christ brings us back to heaven and fellowship with God at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was the first Christian Holy Liturgy. Adam’s Paradise is depicted as something outside of man, while Christ’s Paradise is depicted as the Kingdom of God within us. We experience the bliss of that Kingdom of God and of eternal life through the uncreated energies of God given to us in Holy Communion, which transform and worship us. Only those eternal unrealized energies of God give man to be truly satiated, to be satiated, to have the fullness of life. Because these uncreated energies of God are life-giving and eternal, it is said, “Their heart shall be alive for ever and ever.”

“Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn.  6.54) – says the Lord. For this we praise and thank God. In the context of this prayer, the word praise (αἰνέω) is synonymous with the word thank (εὐχαριστέω), by which the Holy Secret is also called the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the New Testament, the New Covenant of God with men in the blood of Jesus Christ, which is why the Lord commanded us to keep it constantly until His second coming: “Do this to me for a memorial” (Luke.  22.19)

“The poor will eat and be satisfied” is a deeply liturgical prayer and tells us about the central Holy Secret of our Christian worship. Therefore, the Fathers of the Church found that this prayer was spoken before supper so that the faithful would always remember the Last Supper at which our Lord Jesus Christ established this salvific Sacrament of Communion (Eucharist). It is also an invitation to every Christian to continually participate in the Secret that is baptizing.


Hieromonk Dositej of Hilandar

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