And He asked them: how many loaves have ye? Who said: Seven. And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, He broke and gave to His disciples to set before the people. And they had a few little fishes, and He blessed them, and commanded them to be set before them. And they did eat, and were filled: and they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets: and they that had eaten, were about four thousand: and He sent them away. (From the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Saint Mark viii, 1-9)
In expounding to you the Holy Scriptures, I am, as it were, breaking bread for you. You in hunger, do receive it (Vos esurientes accipite), and break forth with a fullness of praise from the heart; and you who are rich in your banquet, be not meager in good works and deeds. What I deal out to you is not mine own. What you eat, I eat; what you live upon, I live upon. We have in heaven a common store-house; for from thence comes the Word of God.
The "seven loaves" signify the seven-fold operation of the Holy Spirit; the "four thousand men," the Church established on the four Gospels; "the seven baskets of fragments," the perfection of the Church. For by this number very constantly is perfection figured. For whence is that which is said, "seven times in a day will I praise thee"? Does a man sin who does not praise the Lord so often? What then is "seven times will I praise," if not that "I will never cease from praise"? For he who says "seven times," signifies all time. Whence in this world there are continual revolutions of seven days. What then is "seven times in a day will I praise Thee," but what is said in another place, "His praise shall always be in my mouth"?
With reference to this perfection, John writes to seven Churches. The Apocalypse is a book of Saint John the Evangelist; and he writes "to seven Churches." Be hungered; own these baskets. For those fragments were not lost; but seeing that you too belong to the Church, they have surely profited you. In that I explain this to you ... and when you hear peaceably, you "sit down." I in my body sit, but in my heart I am standing, and ministering to you in anxiety, careful that, not the food, but the vessel may not offend any of you. You know the feast of God, you have often heard about it, that it is for the heart, not for the belly.
Of a truth four thousand men were filled by seven loaves; what is more wonderful than this! Yet even this were not enough, had not seven baskets also been filled with the fragments that remained. O great mysteries! They were works, and the works spoke! If you understand these doings, they are words. And you also belong to the four thousand, because you live under the fourfold Gospel.