The times of the Law being now at an end, and buried together with John,
his disciples then came: from the Law to the Gospel, and told the Lord what
had happened. And so the Law being ended, the Word of God, embarking
on a ship, enters the Church, and passes over into a desert place;
abandoning His association with Israel to enter into hearts yet empty of the
knowledge of God. The people hearing this followed the Lord out of the
city into the desert; that is, withdrawing from the synagogue to the Church.
And He seeing the multitude had compassion on it, and healed all their sick
and infirm; that is, cleansed the bodies and souls beset with the lassitude
of unbelief, that they might understand the new Gospel.
And when the Disciples urged Him to send away the people, to buy food in
the neighbouring villages, He replied to them, that: they have no need to
go; showing, that those He healed were not in want of the food of
the doctrine of the Law, and had no need to return to Judea to buy it.
So He bids His Apostles feed them. Did He not know they had nothing to
give? Did He not know, He who saw the secrets of men's hearts, how
much the Apostles had for themselves? But all this had a symbolic
purpose, now to be unfolded. For it had not yet been given to the
Apostles to prepare, and to minister, the heavenly bread, the food of
eternal life. their reply opened the way to an ordered exposition of
spiritual teaching. For they answered that they had only five loaves
and two fishes: for till now they had been nourished from the five loaves;
that is, from the five books of the Law, and by the two fishes, that is, by
the preaching o the prophets and of John. For in the works of the Law,
as from bread, there was life; and the preaching of John and the prophets
refreshed as with water the true hope of human life. It was these
therefore, since they were nurtured in them, that the Apostles at first
carried with them; from them the preaching of the Gospel is shown to have
been foretold, and rising from these sources, its own perfection grows in
ever increasing richness.
And so, taking the loaves and fishes, the Lord looked up to heaven, then
blessed and broke them, giving thanks to the Father that, after the Law and
the Prophets, He is Himself become the Evangelical Bread. And when He
had commanded the people to sit down on the grass, not to lie prone on the
earth, but to sit upheld by the Law, each one spread his own good works,
like the grass of the earth, under him. The bread is also given to the
Apostles, because it is through them the gifts of the divine grace are to be
given. Then the people ate of the five loaves and the two fishes,
after all who had sat down were satisfied, there remained over enough to
fill twelve baskets: that is, the hunger of the multitude is satisfied by
the word of god coming to them from the teaching of the Law and the
Prophets; and the abundance of the divine goodness, kept it in reserve for
the people of the Gentiles, has overflowed from the source of eternal Food
unto the filling of the Twelve Apostles.
And the number of those who ate is, we find, the same as that of those
who were to believe. For, as we learn from the Book of the Acts, out
of the numbers of the people of Israel five thousand believed (Acts iv. 4).
For the miracle of these things extends even to the measure of the reason
that underlies them. The bread together with the fishes broken for the
feeding of the people increased to the need of the number of people who
believed, and to the number of Apostles chosen to be filled with heavenly
graces: so that the quantity conformed to the number, and the number to the
quantity, and so that the reason contained within them might, under the
guidance of the divine power, be linked with the outward circumstances of
the effect that was to follow.
The wonder of this deed surpasses human understanding. And while
often things are done which the mind can grasp but words cannot explain, in
these things even the acuteness of the mind to perceive is at a loss:
astonished at the very thought of the complexity of this unseen action.
For taking in His hands the five loaves, the Lord looks up to heaven, and
acknowledges His glory from Whom He Himself was: not that He needed to look
upon the Father with the eyes of His Body, but that those who stood about
him might know from Whom He had received such power. He then gives the
bread to His Disciples. The five loaves are not multiplied into many
loaves; but to the portions broken off succeed other portions, which pass
unnoticed from the hands breaking them. The substance progressively
increases, whether at the place that served for tables, or in the hands of
those taking it, or in the mouth of those who ate it, I know not.
Wonder not that the fountains run, that there are grapes in the vines,
and that wine comes forth from the grapes; and that all the resources
this world come to us in a certain yearly and unwearied motion; for this so
great yield of loaves proclaims the Maker of all this, by Whom the quantity
of the substance He has touched is so increased. Under this visible
work we have an invisible making; and the Lord of heaven's mysteries works
the miracle of this mystery before us. And the Power of Him Who makes
surpasses all nature; and the nature of that power far exceeds our
understanding of what He does; and all that remains is the Mystery of His
power, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth world
without end. Amen.