Loaves and Fishes
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish is a church in Tabgha (ancient Heptapegon) on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The church is the traditional site of the Miracle of the Multiplication. It is situated in a narrow, fertile valley on the northern shore of the lake, watered by several springs.
It stands where the miraculous feeding of the multitude took place. The miraculous feeding of five thousand people is described in Mark 6:31-44:
“31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.”
Hebrew: "וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר רָפָה הַיּוֹם לַעֲרוֹב וַיִּגְּשׁוּ אֵלָיו תַּלְמִידָיו וַיֹּאמְרוּ הִנֵּה הַמָּקוֹם חָרֵב וְהַיּוֹם רַד מְאֹד׃ שַׁלַּח אוֹתָם וְיֵלְכוּ אֶל־הַחֲצֵרִים וְהַכְּפָרִים מִסָּבִיב לִקְנוֹת לָהֶם לָחֶם כִּי אֵין־לָהֶם מַה־שֶּׁיֹּאכֵלוּ׃ וַיַּעַן וַיּאֹמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם תְּנוּ אַתֶּם לָהֶם לֶאֱכֹל וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הֲנֵלֵךְ לִקְנוֹת לֶחֶם בְּמָאתַיִם דִּינָר לָתֵת לָהֶם לֶאֱכֹל׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם כַּמָּה כִכְּרוֹת־לֶחֶם יֵשׁ לָכֶם לְכוּ וּרְאוּ וַיֵּדְעוּ וַיֹּאמְרוּ חָמֵשׁ וּשְׁנֵי דָגִים׃ וַיְצַו אוֹתָם לָשֶׁבֶת כֻּלָּם חֲבֻרָה חֲבֻרָה לְבַד עַל־יְרַק הַדֶּשֶׁא׃ וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שׁוּרוֹת שׁוּרוֹת לְמֵאוֹת וְלַחֲמִשִּׁים׃ וַיִּקַּח אֶת־חֲמֵשֶׁת כִּכְּרוֹת הַלֶּחֶם וְאֶת־שְׁנֵי הַדָּגִים וַיִּשָׂא עֵינָיו הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וַיְבָרֶךְ וַיִּפְרֹס אֶת־הַלֶּחֶם וַיִּתֵּן לְתַלְמִידָיו לָשׂוּם לִפְנֵיהֶם וְאֶת־שְׁנֵי הַדָּגִים חִלֵּק לְכֻלָּם׃ וַיֹּאכְלוּ כֻלָּם וַיִּשְׂבָּעוּ׃ וַיִּשְׂאוּ מִן־הַפְּתוֹתִים מְלוֹא סַלִּים שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר וְגַם מִן־הַדָּגִים׃ וְהָאֹכְלִים מִן־הַלֶּחֶם הָיוּ כַּחֲמֵשֶׁת אַלְפֵי אִישׁ".
What to See at the Church of Multiplication?
The basilical church is divided by two rows of columns into a central hall and two aisles. In the eastern wall is a semi-circular apse and on either side of it, rooms for the officiating clergy. A raised platform in front of the apse is surrounded by a chancel screen and at its center an untrimmed stone was preserved under the altar. This is the traditional site of the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. A mosaic depicting a basket of bread flanked by two fish was found behind the untrimmed stone. It was added in the 6th century, suggesting the stone’s significance; today it is displayed in front of the altar.
What can we learn from the parable of the loaves and fishes?
Five thousand men were fed by five loaves of bread and two fish. It is a miracle of abundance that stems from faith. A belief that there is enough for everyone, that we do not live one at the expense of the other, that our shared life is not a zero-sum game, in which there is always a winner and a loser.
Greek ichthys (ΙΧΘΥΣ - Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter) is a symbol in Christian art and literature representing the sign of the fish.
Start with yourself. Bring your loaves and fishes and let’s get started. It begins with you.