Over at People for Others this morning, Paul Brian Campbell, S.J. writes about the challenges inherent in imagining the Last Supper:
"The slightest wrinkle in my life causes me so much agita that I can’t sit to eat anything. How Jesus was able to join his disciples for a meal and be focused enough to teach them about humility (with the washing of the feet) and about the Eucharist simply beggars my imagination.
Trying to figure out how the Apostles reacted to the unusual preparations for the feast and then to the whole drama with Judas defeats me completely."
It occurs to me that seldom do we know when the last supper is taking place. Even when, as I have witnessed several times, families order pizza or bring cafeteria food up to the room of a dying loved one in the hospital, they don't know whether that particular meal is the last one.
The disciples? I suppose they guessed. All indications from Jesus' actions and words were that he was moving into the final hours of his life as they knew it.
But Paul Campbell's words about the agitation interwoven through significant events caused me to think of one such supper, although it was a first supper ~ the ones we are more likely to remember, since we know what they are.
The one that came to mind was, of course, the lunch after my son's funeral service. I could not have toasted a slice of bread that day, but our house had begun to fill much earlier that morning with food and with people who took on all tasks of organization and preparation.
As I recall wandering through the house during the afternoon hours, small groupings of people come to mind, interspersed with my closest friends who were carrying trays, opening and closing oven and microwave, offering drinks, rinsing and washing dishes, and making pot after pot of coffee.
The lifelong friends of my in-laws talking quietly among themselves in the living room.
My own indescribable extended family of steps and a half and an ex out in the backyard, where my Jesuit spiritual director sat for the longest time listening to my agnostic father's extended soliloquies.
The Montessori kids who had known one another since earliest childhood, now college graduates, sprawled across the front stairs, where, so I am told, one of the Catholic girls offered the blessing of Jesus Christ and the sign of the cross to one of the Jewish boys.
The seminary friends on the front porch, where I sat down in relief for a few moments after changing out of my dress clothes into khakis and a sweater ~ oddly, I remember which sweater ~ against the unexpected early chill.
And the group which reminds me most of the last supper gathering, the University of Chicago group of friends, now minus one, seated on the benches at the long table in our small sunroom, laughing and finding life together under the yet-to-be repaired ceiling from which a giant piece of plaster had crumbled years before.
None of us had known when the last supper was. But we had gathered for the first, the one that would propel us into the life we had not sought and did not want.
And so I ponder, today, not so much the Last Supper of history, but the first one. Who brought the food? Was it all cold, since it was Shabbos? Who cleaned up? Did Mary wander from group to group, playing hostess and hoping simultaneously that they would all stay and that they would all leave? Was she surrounded by people from all the strains of her life and her son's, mingling together in shock and awe at the one event that connected them?
We are a day away from that one, from the first supper. But I am wondering about it.
Did she, Mary, did she ponder it, later? Did she remember which sweater she put on?
Or did the Light of the Resurrection blot it all from memory?
"I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind."