I am inspired by a person’s ability to share food with others and the community that grows from this sharing. In the Last Supper, the sacred embraces the ordinary. Our daily bread becomes holy when it is shared. The fruit of our labor becomes the fruit of the Spirit when it is shared.
We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love each other we must know each other in the breaking of bread and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship. Love comes with community.
With a vision of a feast of companionship and sharing in my mind and in my heart, I began drawing scenes of a group around a circular table. Over the years, I drew and developed other sketches of the Last Supper, but I kept returning to the idea of a round table, where there is no hierarchy of seating. It is a welcome table, no one is excluded from the conversation. Jesus comes to the table as both host and companion. The circular table draws us all into the scene, giving the viewer a feeling of being included in the meal. We are all participating in this supper.
There are so many hungry people that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread
The story of the Last Supper has been approached by great artists in various ways for centuries. Because of the mastery in other depictions of this scene by other artists, I was not certain that I was ready to convey this great scene with all of its complexities. In many of these artworks. the emphasis is on the drama of the table, the tension among the apostles as news of the betrayal is revealed.
For me, the theme of the story I wanted to depict was community, and what it means to share a meal together.
We have learned to see in bread an instrument of community…the flavor of bread shared has no equal
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Surrounding the central image, I createe an illuminated narrative border of seventy-eight miniature scenes showing the labor of those who grow and prepare the food for the supper. It is important for me, in this celebration, to explore where food comes from, to depict the communal nature between those at the table and those who make the meal possible. Even a simple meal of bread and wine requires the labor of planters, growers, pickers, bakers, winemakers, and so many others. I wanted to celebrate the care they put into their work, sustaining us, our loved ones and our community.
And I pray he works a miracle for the ones who the world leaves empty,
For we who struggle and starve while the few cling tight to their plenty.
This is my prayer. This is my prayer. This is my prayer. This is my prayer. This is my prayer.
For those who work on the land, for those who plant the seed,
For those who work with their hands to bring us the food we need
Thanks be to God and blessings on all who labor.
Thanks be to God and justice for all our neighbors.
This is my prayer
–Rev. David Farley (Echo Park United Methodist Church, Los Angeles)
In the surrounding narrative border, I also incorporated images of caring, sharing, and compassion from scripture:
Just as you did for the least of my family, you did for me.
I was hungry, you gave me food.
Thirsty, you gave me drink.
A stranger, you welcomed me.
Naked, you clothed me.
Sick, you took care of me.
In prison and you visited me.
This is a table where those who hunger, those who are bound, those who are naked, and those who are strangers are also welcomed. It is the table where we come to know and love each other in the breaking of bread, and where we are not alone any more.
I hope my art speaks of the hospitality I have experienced from people of all ethnicities, nationalities, and religious backgrounds. The kindness, sharing, and community I have felt stays with me and inspires my art. I feel gratitude recalling the care and warmth of a meal, good company, and generosity and kindness given me, often from those who have so little. These experiences of sharing with our immediate family and the guests we welcome to our table help us to feel solidarity with our whole human family around the world.
God of Pilgrims, give us always a table to stop at where we can tell our story and sing our song.
-Father John Giuliani OSB