Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Beauty of Sacrifice: Holy Thursday


Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper may be one of the most famous paintings in the world, but I confess it does not stir my soul. Perhaps this is because of Leonardo’s focus on Judas’s treachery — the painting depicts the Apostles’ reaction when Christ reveals one of them will betray Him. Even Fra Angelico’s austere fresco — in the midst of Christ leaning over to give the host (Himself) to a bowing Apostle — inspires greater pathos.

Consider instead Peter Paul Rubens’s 17th Century masterpiece (shown below), in which a light-emanating Christ lifts bread with His eyes raised to heaven in gratitude and a hint of trepidation — fusing the unbloody sacrifice of Melchizedek with His own bloody sacrifice as the Paschal Lamb. Judas is the only man looking directly at the viewer, with an expression that pierces the soul, as if to indict all generations with a glance. In an instant, we are reminded of our own betrayal of Him and yet swept up into the light of His sacrifice and salvation.

Here is Rubens’s painting … in the comments, please share your favorite depictions of the Last Supper (and Institution of the Eucharist)!

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  1. Doctor Robert Member

    In the Fra Angelico, am I right to see a black halo on one disciple in the group on the right, presumably Judas?

    If so, how interesting that all three artists made Judas darker-haired than the others.

    • #1
    • April 13, 2017, at 6:31 PM PDT
  2. Ruthenian Member
    Ruthenian Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Perhaps Marcos Zapata the painter of the Last Supper on display in Cusco Cathedral has seen a copy of Rubens’ work and was influenced by it. In his painting Judas is also the only Apostole looking toward the viewer. It is not a direct look, however; perhaps he is looking for the henchmen to come (us?). His look is competing with that of Christ who is looking directly at us.

    The reason I remember this particular rendering of the Last Supper is the inclusion of the local folklore into the painting: roasted guinea pig is a local delicacy.

    • #2
    • April 13, 2017, at 7:29 PM PDT
  3. GiveMeLiberty Inactive

    The greatest mystery of eternal life is depicted in the wine, representing His blood, in a cup, and the bread representing His body, seperately in His hand. Body and blood would soon be separated on the cross for all to see that He was dead. But He says to “do this” until He comes again: take the bread and eat it, take the wine and drink it. Therefore inside of these “jars of clay” are thus combined: the True Life of the Body and the Blood: received in us — His life — which is eternal. May you know His wondrous love this Resurrection Sunday.

    • #3
    • April 13, 2017, at 7:32 PM PDT
  4. Tutti Member

    Thank you for this insightful post. I’ve looked at these paintings for many years and never went beyond the obvious artistry, color, and technique: I saw but did not see.

    • #4
    • April 14, 2017, at 5:03 AM PDT
  5. Elisabeth Inactive

    Dali expresses the timeless efficacy of Jesus’ body broken and His blood shed for the remission of our sins as our Lord offers Himself to His disciples and as the priests prepare to offer Him to us at His table. I can’t take my eyes off His arms stretched out above the world in love as though on the cross. Or perhaps it is the Father’s benediction over the world through the sacrifice of the Son. The table is set, the Bread at the edge nearest to us; the only red in the entire wall-sized image is the Wine in the cup, backlit. There is a hush of deep reverence as our gaze brushes past the bowed heads of the disciples and lingers on His face as He looks up at us, inviting us to come and receive.

    I can’t figure out how to paste an image in, but here’s the link:

    Visit it next time you’re at the National Gallery of Art on the mall in Washington.


    • #5
    • April 14, 2017, at 8:11 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Fred Houstan Member

    Sadly, I do not have a favorite work of art depicting the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist. Your reflections are wonderful, as is @bhughmann. What a blessed challenge!

    • #6
    • April 14, 2017, at 11:16 AM PDT

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