March 31, 2010

The Betrayed Body

Preaching through this Holy Week I have been reflecting on something to which I haven't ever given much thought, but is as obvious as could be: The Body of Christ we offer and receive in the Eucharist is the betrayed Body.

I think it must be divine law that every rectory dining room or refectory in a religious house has to display an image of the Last Supper. Often it is some derivation of Da Vinci's treatment, which is unfortunate. (I agree with one of my great teachers, Charles Merrill Smith, that it is "one of a great painter's dubious efforts.") We have just such a Last Supper in the dining room here. As I have written about before, it was a source of daily amusement for me when I first arrived because of the inscription below the image: Amen dico vobis quia unus vestrum me traditurus est. Of all the beautiful things Our Lord said at the Last Supper--'Love one another as I have loved you,' 'I am the vine, you are the branches,' etc.--someone decided that this was the particular line that the friars needed to hear. So there it was; each day as you were getting your mashed potatoes or whatever: "Amen I say to you that one of you will betray me."

Over time, though, I've gotten over my amusement and come to appreciate it. After all, am I not a betrayer of the Lord? Any of us who have sinned after our baptism have handed over the members of Christ we have become. In our distraction and ingratitude, we have failed to discern the members of the Body of Christ we have become, and, like Judas, have settled for less by handing our Christ-ened selves over to trifles and sins.

This illuminates the overwhelming gentleness and humility of Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus takes his Body 'given up,' the very betrayal itself, and transforms it into nourishment for us, his betrayers.


Jeanne said...

Every Italian family has this in their dining room too, including my sister....though we are German, she married an Italian man whose mother was an immigrant, and guess what she got for her wedding present? A large ceramic copy of the Last Supper. I'm not sure if anything is written under it. Great post. And yes, we are all, with every sin, betrayers...though we don't like to think about it!

Qualis Rex said...

Father Charles, I guess I don't understand the issue with DaVinci's last supper. I'm definitely not attached to it or anything. Can you give me a quick recap?

On another note, not sure if you saw the article, but there was one floating around saying that portrayals of food portions in paintings, judging by the last supper original and the copies up to the present, show that we as a society have grown to expect obesity.

ben in denver said...

I saw that article about portion size. I wonder how much is has to do with Protestantism. Prior to the reformation the Last Supper was universally understood as an anticipation of Calvary, the Sacrifice was important, and in art the meal was more of a symbol of who Christ was, so we get things like the lamb's head in Bassano's painting.

With protestants we have more of an emphasis on the "Supper" than was ever there before, and in art there is an atempt to realistically depict what they may have actually been eating.