Loaves and Fishes
On the eighth Sunday after Easter, for Pentecost, they read the Gospel According to Saint Matthew:
"14:14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
14:15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
14:16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
14:17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
14:18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
14:19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
14:20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
14:21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
14:22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away."
What does this satiety of the five thousands with five loaves and two fishes symbolically mean? Why were there five thousand of them? Why five loaves? Why two fishes? And what does "bread" mean in the biblical language? And what does "fish" mean?
We all know that every letter, every sign of the Holy Scripture has a huge meaning, as Jesus said.
"For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." - Matthew, 5:18
Why does Jesus pay so much attention to the letter of the Bible? It is because beyond every letter there is a deep spiritual and symbolic meaning. Saint Gregory of Nyssa explains the symbolism of the Scripture: "If you remove the material layer of the word, what is left is God, Spirit and Life". Let's remove this layer and through the letter let's go deep inside the spirit of the Bible.
What is "bread" in the language of the Bible?
“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” - John, 4.34
Bread is the completion of God’s will. It is the faith that is born from the living and effective word of His. It is our daily bread. It is daily, because we need it on a daily basis to support our being. This bread fortifies our spiritual power, makes our path to the kingdom of the Lord firm, paves our way to happiness. This way gives us satisfaction of all our needs, both spiritual and physical.
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. - Matthew, 6.33
Strive first for his righteousness! God’s righteousness, God’s word, sacred faith is what makes this indispensable bread. The Gospel According to John tells us about the same kind of bread:
“ ...it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” - John, 4.32-33
God is the word, Jesus Christ who comes from heaven to grant faith and grace.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. “ - John, 6.35
Spiritual hunger will be satisfied within God’s word, and spiritual thirst will be quenched, because the living water of Jesus is that of humility, the “wine” of the New Testament, that alters man’s mind and cheers the heart of the righteous person.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” - John, 6.48-52
The one who feeds on this bread, the flesh of Jesus, the flesh of the Sacred Church will become righteous.
|Bogomazov, Bread, wine and fish|
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.“ - John, 6.56
As we can see, if we accept the “bread” of God’s will in our flesh and in our being (the practice of faith), if we eat this bread, if we realize God’s word, if we incarnate God’s will in our flesh, then this sacred “bread of life” becomes the flesh of Christ, the body of Christ, the righteousness of Christ in us. And if we accept in our blood, in our life (blood symbolizes life, because the life of the body depends on the blood and its movement), the New Testament’s wine of God’s teaching (wine is theory, the fearless preaching of the Word), then this sacred “wine” becomes Christ’s blood in us. This way, we become unified with God’s blood and body and we become participants of the Salvation theory and practice. This is the Holy Communion of Christ’s body and blood through which and in which the grace of Holy Spirit resides.
Now we can better understand what kind of bread was blessed by Christ as he looked up to the sky. The sky is the domain of the Spirit, the God’s will, the divine firmament of the Law that separates the living water of God’s teaching - of humility and love - from the doctrine of pride and hatred. Now we understand what kind of bread was given to the apostles and they, in their turn, gave this bread to the people.
Let’s investigate further: what kind of fish does God propose to us? In the biblical language, fish is a human soul. Christ said to Peter and Andrew, the former fishermen: "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." - Matthew, 4.19 All alone, bread may seem tasteless. It is the fish that gives some taste...
When this fish is caught, human souls are saved from the sea of this world, the routine, excited by the storm of temptations, with the net of the Gospel’s word, with the help of missionary work of God’s messengers. When it is baked on the fire of God’s word, then those who witness this cure, obtain spiritual joy, eat the baked fish of the saved human soul. This joy, this tasty food was given by God to the people - the joy of salvation, the joy of welcoming a new human soul to the community of the faithful.
Why are there two fishes? It is because the number “two” in the language of the Bible symbolizes the double human nature, both spiritual and fleshy, soul and body. The healing takes place both on spiritual and physical levels.
And, finally, why five loaves for five thousand people? Number “five” in the Bible signifies human senses. There are five of them: the eyesight, the hearing, the touch, the taste, the sense of smell. These five senses of ours are also entrances for the temptations of this world. These five, more than anything, need to be healed. They are the five porticoes near which the ill are waiting for the cure.
“Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed.” - John, 5.2
These paralyzed, lame, blind and other sick people have no other healer than Jesus Christ. And they have no other remedy...