Bread and fish – 30 July 2018
In the early centuries of Christianity in Rome, when the dead were laid to rest in the catacombs, people decorated the walls of the tombs with pictures. So, after laying a loved one (or ones) to rest, a Christian – maybe a relative, maybe a member of the deceased’s church – painted this fresco on the wall nearby. (Catacomb St Callixtus, 2nd-4th cent ) Although this image is simple, it is painted with care using a number of pigments to fill in the outlined shape of a basket of bread and a fish. Did the artist paint it while alone, or as part of worship, or accompanied by hymns?
Five loaves and a fish, an image relating to the story of the feeding of the five thousand (the miracle of the multiplication), but also to the Eucharist. In other wall pictures from this period, we see that when Christians gathered around a table to celebrate communion together, there on the table was bread and wine and fish.
In St John’s telling of the story of the feeding of five thousand we are reminded how much Jesus can make from a little, enough for everyone and some over. And in the command to gather up the fragments so that nothing is lost, we understand that as it is with simple bread, so it is with those whom we have loved but have now died. Everything is gathered up into Christ, nothing and no one is lost. This was the hope for those Christians who met in the place of burial in the catacombs, and saw this image on the wall. And we are reminded that it is when we gather around the Lord’s table that all the saints, living and departed, come closest to each other.
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:17
O God of our ancestors, God of our people, Before whose face the human generations pass away: We thank you that in you we are kept safe for ever, and that the broken fragments of our history are gathered up in the redeeming act of your dear Son, remembered in this holy sacrament of bread and wine. Help us to walk daily in the Communion of Saints, declaring our faith in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body. Now send us out in the power of your Holy Spirit to live and work for your praise and glory. Amen.
After Communion, Kenyan Rite