The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes
"Give ye them to eat!" said Christ to His disciples. And He said this to them as if answering their advice: "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." But Christ insisted, "Give ye them to eat!" Then the disciples said to Him, "[Teacher], we have here but five loaves, and two fishes" (Mt. 14:15-17).
Let us put ourselves in their position: a tremendous crowd — the men alone were about five thousand, not counting women and children. With the approach of darkness, the places where bread was sold would be closed. So this crowd of many thousands faced a hungry night in the wilderness. With them were little children. While Christ spoke, all physical needs were silent; but now He fell silent and the people were already beginning to feel hungry. What would happen next? People would become weak, children would cry from hunger, and no one would be able to fall asleep. The result would be despondency, disillusionment, and maybe even murmuring. We believed Thee; we came in search of the Kingdom of God and its Truth. That’s why we came to Thee here. Thou didst promise that everything else would be added to us. But here Thy promise has not been fulfilled. We don’t even have the food necessary for our children; and night is approaching, a dark southern night.
Yes, it’s possible to understand the attitude of the disciples. Even their love for their Teacher may have prompted them to warn Him. And He, when they mentioned the inadequacy of their food supply — five loaves of bread and two fish — He commanded the people to sit down on the grass in groups, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, looked upon heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, gave them to His disciples, and His disciples to the people. And they all ate and were filled and gathered the remaining pieces into twelve full baskets (Mt. 14:18-20). A great, unprecedented miracle. And this miracle is historic!
But the power hidden in these five words of Christ, "Give ye them to eat!" many times 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 has brought to earth: salvation of the human race, spiritual food, all the 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, bishops. In such a way the Church will exist eternally and feed believers. She will give them that which no one and nothing on earth can give. With the words: "Give ye them to eat!" Christ makes His Church Apostolic. And at that moment, when Christ commanded the people to sit down on the grass in groups — this is the great moment of the organization of the Church. Remember Holy Russia. It consisted of separate groups — parishes — and they all merged into one great whole — the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In this way the Church of Christ now exists and will exist until the end of the ages.
Let us always strive for Her. And if for some reason we cannot always abide in Her physically, then let us always live psychologically within the Church cycle. And we will find food which leads us into Eternal Life. Only in the Church do we find the greatest Sacrament of Christ, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood which contains Life Eternal.
Sermon by Archbishop Andrei (Rymarenko, 1893-1978)