The Feeding of the Four Thousand,
T'oros Roslin Gospels,
Walters Manuscript W.539, fol. 67r,
Executed in 1262,
Illumination and ink on vellum
© Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat
A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said. Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Reflection on the Illuminated Manuscript
This manuscript was made in 1262 by T’oros Roslin, a prominent Medieval illuminator who introduced into his manuscripts a whole cycle of images depicting many of the Gospel passages. This particular manuscript was created at the scriptorium of Hromkla, which became the leading artistic centre in Armenia under the rule of Constantine I (1221-1267). It is one of seven known manuscripts bearing T’oros Roslin’s signature and it is the most sumptuous of them all, with 15 miniatures and 67 smaller illustrations. The style of the images and slight differences in execution indicate that T’oros had several assistants helping with the illustrations. This manuscript has long been cherished within the Armenian church. Still well into the 17th century, Armenian scribes made copies based on the manuscript we are looking at in today’s reflection.
The focus of the manuscript illumination is on the disciples. Jesus is not placed in the middle but is depicted at the far right. Yes, today’s reading is as much about the disciples as about Jesus. Precisely because they are disciples, they still learn every day from being alongside Jesus. They were afraid that they couldn’t feed the large crowds. But Jesus tells them that fear cannot stop them - nor us.
When they gave the seven loaves and some small fish to Christ, they got back so much more. They had seven full baskets left, instead of seven loaves. Often our own fears of inadequacy prevent us from offering small things to Our Lord. But the disciples were freed from this inadequacy because Jesus multiplied their gifts; this should encourage us to follow in the footsteps of the apostles. If we give Jesus everything, he will transform our humble offerings into an overabundance that will feed others….
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A beautiful illustration and Gospel story.
Jesus is always compassionate and always provides for our needs.
Wonderful gospel, showing Christ’s tender love once more.
I don’t know why – I thought of the 1970s film ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ which depicted this exact scene. Mary Magdalene was shown as taking a piece of the bread handed to her, upon which she wept bitterly. I know just how she felt…
Anyway, an absolutely wonderful image today – what a master! Thank you Patrick.
Blessings to all on this day of prayer for the sick.
And that is Armenian script? We went to the Armenian cathedral in Jerusalem and saw their young seminarians – very serious looking young men. Apparently the Kardashians are regular visitors! The Armenians have jurisdiction over a segment of the city.
I saw a tv programme about Georgia the other day, another ancient Christian people. They too have their own script.
One of the best known stories from the Bible – or is it a parable??
It’s not a parable. It is about named, known people. Parables are stories about characters, a widow, a rich man, a son etc.
Give Jesus everything and He will give you even more in return.
A truly lovely thing! I can’t stop looking at it! The profile of the woman top centre, as she is being handed the bread by the disciple in purple, is so expressive. She looks so very sad, I hope the heavenly bread gave her some comfort. Thank you for another marvel, Patrick, and another very inspiring message. Another one in my favourites!
Hope today is brighter for you SFG.
Thank you so much. Things move very slowly in the legal world and I am learning a lot about patience. My faith in God increases, as my faith in human justice decreases. That is how it should be.
Patience: a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Justice in this world is in very short supply.
I am learning that lesson.
I will continue to pray for you and your son. I will ask for the intercession of St. Thomas More.
Thank you so much- one of my favourite Saints! I once played his daughter on stage.