“And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied.” – Luke 9:16-17
In the Holy Land, it’s called Tabgha, “the place of the seven springs.” Its name originates from the Greek word, Heptapegon. But this holy site on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee is best known for a miraculous event that took place here over two thousand years ago – the feeding of the multitude.
The multiplication of the loaves and fishes is probably one of the best known of Jesus’ miracles. Besides the Resurrection, it’s the only miracle that is mentioned in all four Gospels. We know the story well. Jesus takes the simple offering of two fish and five loaves of bread from a young boy and uses it to feed over 5,000 people. Why does He do this? Because the people are hungry. He has such great compassion for them that He doesn’t send them away to fend for themselves; instead, He feeds them himself.
What is the significance of the bread and fish? For one, fish come from the sea and bread is from the land, the two realms that together make up the whole earth, the bounty of the Lord. God has placed it all in our hands and has given it all in abundance. Yet we also have a part to play. We must catch the fish and harvest the wheat; it is the fruit of the land and the “work of human hands.”1 The Lord will bless and multiply all that we offer Him, providing not only for our physical needs, but also for our spiritual hunger and thirst. Contained within this miracle, we glimpse one of even greater proportions – the Lord feeding us in the Eucharist.
At this holy site, a simple church has been built over the rock that served as the table where Jesus performed the miracle and fed the people – one of the first altars. Ancient mosaics from an earlier Byzantine church depict a beautiful image of two fish, but only four loaves. Where is the fifth loaf? Our guide explained that Jesus himself is the fifth loaf, no longer in the basket but present on the altar, offered for our Salvation. He provides for us from His very Body. In the Eucharist, Jesus is literally that “bread, broken and shared.” What’s more, we are given the opportunity to receive Him in Holy Communion 365 days of the year. What an unspeakable gift, an immeasurable blessing! “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty…”
– Kelley Holy
1 From the Preparation of the Gifts in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.