The Last Supper,
Painting by Dieric Bouts (1420-1475),
Painted between 1464 and 1467,
Oil on panel
© St Peter’s Church, Leuven / Wikimedia

The Last Supper,
Painting by Dieric Bouts (1420-1475),
Painted between 1464 and 1467,
Oil on panel
© St Peter’s Church, Leuven / Wikimedia

Gospel of 15 May 2022

Now has the Son of Man been glorified

John 13:31-33,34-35

When Judas had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,

and in him God has been glorified.

If God has been glorified in him,

God will in turn glorify him in himself,

and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.’

Reflection on the painting

In the first paragraph of our reading Jesus says the word ‘glorify’ five times. He mentions how  he glorifies his Father and how his Father glorifies Jesus. As these words of glorification are spoken at the Last Supper, they may sound rather strange just before Jesus is to suffer and die. It seems like a paradox: we associate glory with magnificence, beauty and light, whereas when we think of suffering, we think of darkness, pain and misery. Jesus puts it all together.

But what glorified God was not the suffering itself, but the love with which the suffering was freely accepted and endured. It was total, perfect love that Jesus had for his Father. That love made him endure suffering.

Our mid-15th-century painting by Dieric Bouts depicts in exquisite detail the Last Supper during which the words of today’s Gospel reading were spoken, just after Judas had left. In the painting, Judas is still there, sitting opposite Jesus to the left, rendered with typical shadowy features to convey his imminent departure and betrayal. Judas is holding his hand behind his back, not willing to participate further with the rest of the apostles, who all have prayerful poses.

Christ is exactly at the very centre of our painting. He is the focus. He is blessing with his right hand and in his left hand he holds the communion wafer  over a silver chalice that contains the  consecrated wine. In front of the chalice is a large metal bowl with a brownish gravy, an indication of the lamb that was eaten as part of the ritual Passover meal. Also note the abundance of the fabric of the white tablecloth. According to Flemish custom at the time, tablecloths had a swathe of extra material for the diners to wipe their mouths on.

…but above all… there is a space between the two men at the front of the table… ready for us as a viewer to take our place at the Lord’s supper…

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Patricia O'Brien
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
6 months ago

Lovely, lovely painting. You can’t beat this early Northern stuff (imo). No halos I note….
Sunday blessings everyone. May today’s gospel reach our hearts. Amen.

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