Select Page

Treasures of the Fathers: Fifth Sunday of Abib, The Five Loaves and Two Fish

by Saint Augustine
Sermon 80 (on John 6:9), NPNF, s. 1, v. 6, p. 1075.

It was a great miracle that was wrought, dearly beloved, for five thousand men to be filled with five loaves and two fishes, and the remnants of the fragments to fill twelve baskets. A great miracle: but we shall not wonder much at what was done, if we give heed to Him That did it. He multiplied the five loaves in the hands of them that brake them, who multiplies the seeds that grow in the earth, so as that a few grains are sown, and whole barns are filled. But, because he does this every year, no one marvels. Not the inconsiderableness of what is done, but its constancy takes away admiration of it. But when the Lord did these things, He spoke to them that had understanding—not by words only, but even by the miracles themselves.
The five loaves signified the five books of Moses’ Law. The old Law is barley compared to the Gospel wheat. In those books are great mysteries concerning Christ contained. Whence He says, “If you had believed Moses, you would believe Me also ; for he wrote of Me.” But as in barley the marrow is hid under the chaff, so in the veil of the mysteries of the Law is Christ hidden. As those mysteries of the Law are developed and unfolded; so too those loaves increased when they were broken. And in this that I have explained to you, I have broken bread unto you.
The five thousand men signify the people ordered under the five books of the Law.
The twelve baskets are the twelve Apostles, who themselves too were filled with the fragments of the Law.
The two fishes are either the two precepts of the love of God and our neighbor, or the two people of the circumcision and uncircumcision, or those two sacred personages of the king and the priest.
As these things are explained, they are broken; when they are understood, they are eaten.

By the Scholar Origen
Commentary on St. Matthew, Book 11, ANF v. 10, p. 763-764.

We have spoken these things because of the words, “They that did eat were five thousand men, beside children and women,” which is an ambiguous expression; for either those who ate were five thousand men, and among those who ate there was no child or woman; or the men only were five thousand, the children and the women not being reckoned. Some, then, as we have said by anticipation, have so understood the passage that neither children nor women were present, when the increase and multiplication of the five loaves and the two fishes took place.
But some one might say that, while many ate and according to their desert and capacity participated in the loaves of blessing, some worthy to be numbered, corresponding to the men of twenty years old who are numbered in the Book of Numbers, were Israelites, but others who were not worthy of such account and numbering were children and women. Moreover, interpret with me allegorically the children in accordance with the passage, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ;” and the women in accordance with the saying, “I wish to present you all as a pure virgin to Christ;” and the men according to the saying, “When I am become a man I have put away childish things.”

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 9, 2009