March 21, 2012

The Miracle of the Loaves

Posted in Holy Spirit, Laetare, Lent, Sanctification, Son of God, Son of Man, The Eucharist at 6:38 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The hillside, covered with the hungry host
Who had walked far into the wilderness,
Was glad to lift its eyes and bless
Its Maker as He blessed the barley loaves.

The young old Adam offered all he brought
But found it insufficient for the mass.
Mere loaves and fish are not a meal that lasts.
For man craves food that is not sold and bought.

But taking this small offering from the earth
Our Lord invoked the Spirit’s life and breath.
His Bread invites us to a holy death,
Yet in this death His people find new birth.

Then after every pilgrim had his fill,
They gleaned twelve baskets of the table crumbs:
Now to this feast the hungry world yet comes,
And Gentile folk eat from those baskets still.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

The miracle of the loaves and fishes is as vastly underrated now as it was then. In Mark 6, the sequence of events is given as this: Jesus shows His dominion over the material world by feeding the multitudes. He sends His disciples away in a boat while He goes into a mountain to pray. The disciples are tossed about by the material elements of wind and water. Jesus walks out on the water and calms the winds because He has dominion over the material world. The disciples, who have been an integral part of the feeding of the multitude, become agitated because they think the figure walking on the water is a ghost (non-material). How could anything, material or not, destroy them while they were under the care of the Almighty? Mark 6:52 indicts their fear as follows:

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

It is no coincidence that the next event recorded is that of Jesus healing the sick, again showing again that He has dominion over the material world. The prayer that He taught His disciples was being lived out. He was demonstrating how His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven, where His will is perfectly carried out. The invasion of earth by heaven does not negate the material world but rather blesses and restores it to its proper status.

But so what? And what connection does that concept have with this poem? The Eucharistic liturgy also demonstrates our Lord’s dominion over the material world, represented by the bread and wine, as well as by those who consume them. In a sense, every Eucharist is a creation and an incarnation, and it is most certainly the evidence of unity between God and His people, and by extension, of God’s people with each other.  The first line of the poem, which refers to the people as a “host” reflects not only that there were many of them but also that God’s people ARE one bread and one body becauase we partake that one Bread (I Corinthians 10:17). The entire first verse personifies the hillside (to represent all of the created order) as blessing our Lord because He saves not only the souls of mankind but also restores all of creation.

This poem was started in my head during the sermon on Sunday (March 18) and I’ve worked on it every morning since then. The final pieces fell in place today, March 21, which also happens to be the Feast of Archbishop Cranmer. I was told in seminary that Cranmer died for the sake of the words from the eucharistic liturgy which appear in bold italic below:

Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.

The Eucharist, as with Creation and the Incarnation, is where heaven meets earth, where the breath of life combines with the dust of the earth.

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