|Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - September 2005|
The Great Miracle of Feeding the Five Thousand
"Give ye them to eat!" said Christ our Lord to His disciples. And He said this to them as if answering their request for advice: "This is a desert place, and the time is the now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals." But Christ our Savior insisted, "Give ye them to eat!" Then the disciples said to Him "Teacher, we have here but five loaves, and two fishes" (St. Matthew 14:15-17).
Let us put ourselves in their position for a moment. Here was a tremendous crowd – the men alone were about five thousand, not counting women and children. They were in a "desert place" and presumably not near any town or village where food could be bought (and surely it would take a supermarket to feed 5,000 plus!) With the approach of darkness, any "shops" must surely be closed. So this crowd of many thousands faced a hungry night in the wilderness.
When Christ spoke, all their physical needs were silenced as they waited upon His words. But now He fell silent, and the people's hunger-pangs came back to them. What would happen next? They would become weak, children would cry from hunger, and no one would get much sleep that night. The result would be despondency, disillusionment…maybe even murmuring. "We believed You as we came in search of the Kingdom of God and truth. That is why we came to You here. You promised that everything else would be added to us. But Your promise hasn't been fulfilled. We don’t even have the food children need, and night is approaching....."
Looking at it like this, it's possible to understand the attitude of the disciples and the dilemma they were in. Their love toward their Teacher the Savior may have prompted them to speak to Him in the way they did. And He, when they mentioned the inadequacy of the food supply, instead of organizing a logical, carefully-considered program, proceeded to do the illogical.
What did they have? Five loaves of bread and two fish. He ordered the people to sit on the grass in groups. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed, and broke the loaves, gave them to His disciples, and His disciples distributed the pieces to the people. They all ate, were filled, and afterwards gathered the remaining pieces into twelve full baskets (St. Matthew 14:18-20). A great, unprecedented miracle, and this miracle is historic. A jaw-dropping moment in time, when the power and abundance of the Kingdom of God breaks through into our world and makes us look at everything with fresh eyes.
The power hidden in these five words of Christ our Lord, "Give ye them to eat!" totally exceeds both the physical filling of the crowd of many thousands, and the two thousand years which separate us from that time.
"Give ye them to eat!" Did this mean physical food only? No! It meant everything that the God-Man brought to earth: salvation of the human race, spiritual food, all the holy sacraments which were established by the Lord, the entire Church of Christ, Catholic and Apostolic. But the Apostles were mortal and the Church is eternal. The Apostles would need successors, deacons, priests, and bishops. In such a way the Church exists eternally and believers are constantly being fed. The Church gives us all that which no one and nothing on earth can give us. With the words: "Give ye them to eat!" Christ makes His Church Apostolic. At that moment, when Christ ordered the people to sit down on the grass in groups – parishes – they all merged into one great whole – the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the place where we meet with Him, are fed by Him, forgiven by Him, taught by Him, and express our love for Him..
In this way the Church of Christ now exists and will exist until the end of the ages.
The continuing presence of our Lord and Savior within His Church is the source, the well-spring of the love that the Church displays towards us. Now is the time for us to love the Church! And if for some reason we find we cannot abide in the Church that loves us, let us always try to live within the cycle - the seasons and festivals, the fasting and praying - of the Church. Then we will find food which leads into Eternal Life. Only in the Church can we find the greatest Sacrament of Christ, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood which contains Life Eternal, and everlasting love.
Let us prepare ourselves to receive Him with love, by going to Church to pray, by going to Holy Confession to receive cleansing and forgiveness, and then to partake of the precious and life-giving Mystery of Holy Communion. Then we will find ourselves walking with Christ our Lord with love and joy in our hearts.
Peace to your soul!
Humbly In Christ Our Lord,
Who prays for you!
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(c) Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes