So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them.
Every Eucharist should bring to mind this signature miracle, this miracle that’s one of the few episodes found in every Gospel (along with Jesus’ baptism, walking on water, crucifixion, and resurrection). Jesus is showing His soon to be apostles how to administer Holy Communion, showing the symbolism going on behind it. Every time a minister gives thanks over bread and distributes the bread to God’s people, he should be thinking of this miracle, because they are so related. Surely this is exactly what the apostles thought of while administering the “breaking of bread.”
A significant element of the ritual is the “giving of thanks,” which gives us the word “Eucharist,” which means “thanksgiving.” The residual of this element is the words of the liturgy that go, “It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks…”
Yes we should. At all times and in all places. Why do we give thanks thusly? Because the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. How do we see an earth full of the goodness of the Lord? Because we see it through Christ, whose body is the fullness of Him who fills all in all, who Himself descended and ascended so that He might fill all things.
If Jesus fills all things, all things are a gift for which we ought be thankful. How an we not?
Communion takes two elements of the creation, two elements requiring man’s manufacturing – in other words, the totality of the creation (God’s creation and man’s working with God’s creation) – grain and grape, bread and wine, and fills it with Jesus, as a type of His filling of all creation.
We receive communion as given and shed for our forgiveness, the true Gospel in a nutshell. But what about the rest of creation, which is also filled with Christ? Communion trains us to receive it all as “filled with Christ.” Everything becomes “sacramentalized.” Not in the same way, of course, that communion is, but in a theological sense, we receive the whole world, all the events of the world, all the events of our own lives, as filled with Christ. That might include His cross, which ennobles and sanctifies the ugly bits of this world. He fills all things, even the ugly things, His cross giving meaning to those ugly things.
And if everything is filled with Christ, even the ugly things, how can we not give thanks?
Goodness, Jesus was in a desert with upwards of 10,000 hungry people. He had compassion on them – problem. Solution? Give thanks over bread! That’s the yeast of God, the doctrine of God, that feeds everyone and leaves leftovers.
Communion teaches us to give thanks over all things, to have “giving thanks” the climax of our week, so that this giving of thanks might spill over into our lives throughout the week. What deserts to we find ourselves in? What impossible situations do we find ourselves in? A non-Jesus would panic and worry. A Jesus gives thanks as a miracle happens. Because that giving of thanks adds a leaven to the bread that becomes manifest in due time.
A minister gives thanks over mere bread and repeats Jesus’ words of institution, and soon a bunch of people are given eternal life. That’s a good predicate for the week.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
That verse is repeated four times in Psalm 107. Read it. It gives such pearls such as this, which serves as a nice anthem to this week’s Gospel: “For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.”