On 3 August 2014, the Orthodox Church is on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost. In the sermon delivered after the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to Saint Great Martyr George, His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church explained the significance of the evangelical text of Saint Matthew 14:14-22, read today in all the places of worship, which presents the wonder of the Multiplication of the loaves of bread made by Jesus Christ, our Lord: “the first urge of the Gospel read today is to feed first of all our soul with listening to the Word of God and pray Christ for spiritual and physical healing. This is why the Orthodox Church scheduled fasting before attending the Divine Liturgy because we must feed our soul listening to the Word of God of the Holy Gospel first and then communicate with Christ, our Lord, in the Holy Eucharist, for healing the soul and body. Thus, we show that man is a spiritual being first, having an immortal soul called to the heavenly eternal life, and so bearer of material body, living on the earth and temporary”.
All the social work of the Church stems from the Holy Gospel and from the Divine Liturgy
The Gospel shows us that the social work of the Church stems from the Holy Gospel and Divine Liturgy, showed His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel, further showing that we learn from today’s Gospel “that Jesus Christ, our Lord, distinguishes but does not separate the spiritual food from the body’s food. He gives priority to the spiritual food, but does not forget that man is body too. Thus, when his disciples asked him to let people go to buy something to eat He told them: “You give them something to eat”. Thus, we learn that the Disciples of Christ and so, the entire Church, must have mercy and take care of the hungry human. Jesus’ disciples meant that they were not prepared to feed thousands of people. But Lord Jesus learned from his disciples that it was some material food in the crowd, namely five loaves and two fish and asked that little food to be brought to Him. Then, Jesus blessed the five loaves of bread and the two fish and shared them to the crowd. All of a sudden, this little present was wonderfully multiplied and fed thousands of people. Thus, we see that every gift that we bring to the Church, no matter how small or little, becomes a joy for many people when it is blessed by Christ. This is why the Christians got used, ever since the early centuries, to bring to the Church, besides the bread for the Holy Eucharist, aliments and clothing to be blessed for the poor and sick. This is how the Eucharistic liturgy and the social philanthropy developed at the same time. Namely, the good deeds for helping the poor were organised together with the ordinary prayer of the Church. Therefore, the philanthropic work or charitable one of the Church is rooted in God’s love shown to the people in and through Jesus Christ. In fact, all the social work of the Church stems from the Holy Gospel and Holy Liturgy. In fact, all the Christian philanthropy of merciful devoted love for humans stems from the spiritual relationship of the Christians with the Son of God, who was made Man out of love for humans and for their salvation”.
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel has also emphasised the spiritual meanings of the five loaves wonderfully multiplied by Jesus Christ, our Lord: “The Gospel also shows us that the present the people brings to the Church gets the blessing of God. The five loaves that somebody brought to the meeting of the crowds with Jesus Christ have become the symbol of the bread brought to the Church for making the holy bread, namely for preparing the Divine Liturgy. They also symbolise the five loaves that the priest blesses together with the wheat, oil and wine at the service called Litany, celebrated within the Great Vesper to pray God to multiply them in the respective parish or monastery, eparchy or country, as well as all over the world.
Through generosity we reach the resemblance to God
The Patriarch of Romania emphasised the fact that “the loaves and fish were multiplied while they were shared” “We also learn from today’s Gospel that Jesus Christ, our Lord, does not multiply the five loaves and two fish to show the people mountains of bread. He does not make wonders to impress or intimidate or be praised by the people. Christ, our Lord, makes wonders out of holy merciful love, to help the humans, to strengthen them in faith and love. It should be pointed out that the wonder of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is made while the bread and fish are being shared. Nobody of those present has seen huge quantities of bread and fish in only one place, because the loaves and fish were multiplied while they were shared. Therefore, God does not multiply the gifts so that we may accumulate huge supplies, as a false safety based on material things, but a true wonder is made to cultivate the communion between God and the humans, as well the people’s generosity. Giving you will get, father Nicolae from Rohia nicely said. Thus, when we give some other people food, clothing or money with love and devotion, although our purse is emptied, yet our heart is filled with the spiritual joy of the grace of the Merciful God. Thus, through generosity we reach the resemblance to God, according to the commandment of Jesus Christ, our Lord: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful”.
The Multiplication of the loaves is an anticipation of the Holy Eucharist
“Yet, there is an even deeper meaning of this Gospel, namely that the multiplication of the loaves by Jesus Christ, our Lord, sends us to the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist too, by which the eternal endless love of Christ for the world is manifested. At the Orthodox Eucharist Liturgy, soon after the blessing of the Eucharistic gifts, bread and wine, the priest says: “The Lamb of God is broken and shared (namely given), the One which is broken and not separated (namely not divided), the One always eaten and never ended, and deifies the communicated ones. Although we are communicated with only one particle of the Body of Christ, yet, we receive the entire Christ. In other words, Christ is not divided as Person when is Eucharistly given to the crowd of faithful. The entire Christ is present in every particle of His Holy Body through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus, through the Holy Eucharist we are not given something temporary, but the eternal life or eternal love of Jesus Christ, our Saviour”.
How we must use the blessed gifts of God
Then, His Beatitude underlined another aspect very significant for our life, namely how we must use the gifts blessed by God: “After the crowd was fed up, the rest of the food, namely the crumbs of bread were gathered in twelve baskets. This fact symbolises the truth that God gives food to His people, to the 12 tribes of Israel, who obey His word, as well as to the Church, to the 12 Apostles. Besides this spiritual significance the Gospel also shows us an economical one. The bread remained must not be thrown away, but gathered, kept and used fully or wisely, without wasting it. Thus, the Gospel teaches us to be thrifty, to appreciate the gifts of God even when we have material things in abundance. The place or space in the nature where we fed ourselves must be left clean and nice, not soiled or uglified with rests of food scattered around. Even in the relationship with the matter man should have a spiritual, reasonable and responsible attitude because the material gifts are designed to cultivate the communion of love for God and for his fellow beings”.