The Mystery of the Miracle

St. Romanos the Melodist wrote a hymn based on the Gospel lesson,  Matthew 14:14-22 , in which Jesus Christ feeds more than 5,000 people by blessing five loaves of bread and two fish.  His blessing multiples the small quantity of food into a banquet in desert land.  The Gospel narrative gives no description as to what exactly happened to the bread and fish or what people might have seen of the miracle.  Romanos is quite comfortable with admitting he has no idea how the event actually unfolded,  what the people experienced or what the event might have looked like to an observer.  The reality is we are entering into a mystery of God – God is revealed to us while the physical details are lost to us.  For Romanos part of the mystery and miracle is that the bread itself obeyed the Word of God to multiply.

See how, like lords at a table, Christ’s slaves waited

for Jesus the servant and found him at once.

For the Master blessed the five loaves,

saying to them with an unseen voice,

“Increase perceptibly and multiply

and now nourish all those present here.”

At once the loaves obeyed the Lord.

They gave birth invisibly,

as Christ told them to, he who is

the heavenly bread of incorruption.

No human mind can wholly reason out this wonder,

how the invisible loaves flowed on invisibly.

Where did their ineffable increase occur –

in the hands of the disciples or was it on the tables?

Since I do not know the manner of the inexpressible sight,

I keep silence at the wonder, while by faith I correct

my mind, for I do not apprehend the depth of the mystery,

as I now see the twelve baskets

filled with fragments, as he alone knows

the heavenly bread of incorruption.

So also multiply for us all the multitude of your compassion

and just as then, Savior, you satisfied with wisdom

and fed with power the multitude in the desert,

satisfy us all with justice.

Strengthen us in your faith, Lord.

Nourish us all, as you are merciful,

and give us your grace and forgiveness of offences

at the intercessions of the Mother of God,

because you alone are good and full of pity as

the heavenly bread of incorruption.

(On the Life of Christ, pp. 96-97)

For St. Romanos, the more than 5,000 people present experienced a multiplication of the fish and bread, but an even greater miracle is possible for us as God multiples His blessings on us – His compassion, His wisdom, His justice, His mercy, grace and forgiveness.  We may experience even more of a blessing  than those folks who had only their hunger relieved.

Holy Myrrhbearing Women

As the true friends of the Creator were saying this,

Mary, who was following, said,

“Initiates of the Lord and his truly fervent lovers, do not think like this;

but be patient, do not lose heart.

For what has happened was a dispensation,

so that women, as those who were the first to fall,

might be the first to see the risen One.

He wishes to grant to us who mourn the grace of his ‘Rejoice!’,

he who grants resurrection to the fallen.”

On the Life of Christ: Kontakia, p. 170)

Frequently, the Patristic writers see the Gospel events as an “undoing” of the Fall of Eve and Adam.  In the poem above, St. Romanos the Melodist, explains  that the Women Disciples of the Lord learn about the resurrection before the chosen Apostles so that woman would be given the opportunity to “reverse the curse”.  Eve fell before Adam, but now the women get to share the Good News with the men.  All sin is forgiven in the resurrection as humans are put on the path to the Kingdom of God and allowed to enter into Paradise again.

Holy Wednesday (2018)

It was common in the early church to personify Death and Hell especially in contemplating the crucifixion of Christ.  Death, Hell and Satan were often portrayed having a conversation trying to understand what the death of Christ meant for them – their victory over God, or, as they belatedly realized, the dead Christ was the seed of their own destruction.  Life burst forth from the tomb of Christ, bringing an end to Death’s power over humanity.

Three crosses Pilate fixed on Golgotha,

two for the thieves and one for the Giver of life,

whom Hell saw and said to those below,

“My ministers and powers

who has fixed a nail in my heart?

A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart.

My insides are in pain, my belly in agony,

my sense make my spirit tremble,

and I am compelled to disgorge

Adam and Adam’s race. Given me by a Tree,

a Tree is bringing them back

again to Paradise.

(St. Romanos, On the Life of Christ, pp. 155-156)

The personified Death, Hades and Satan all become mortally wounded by Christ’s own wounds.  They become weakened and sickened by the healing power of Christ’s resurrection.  Simultaneously, for us humans, we are being restored to health by Christ’s wounds.  “Those who repent with all their heart and cleanse themselves of all their aforementioned evils, and add nothing more to their sins, will receive healing from the Lord for their previous sins...”  (Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude 8:77:1-5)  Far beyond forgiveness of our sins, God gives us the gift of healing of soul and body through the suffering of His Son.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  (1 Peter 2:24)