The Mystical Supper is considered a historical event. The liturgy of the Eucharist is based on the biblical text.
For this icon, I used the prototype image from Andrei Rublev’s famous Last Supper Icon. The design, balance, and harmony in his original creation of the icon is unmatched. Liturgically, the Eucharist is arranged by word and message to invite all to the table, where the invisible is made visible. Mystikos is the Greek word for “the secret one.” The Eucharist is a principle and essential sacrament for Christian life revealed in mystery and community. Who is our community today? and In the Last Supper Icon, Who is guilty of betrayal?
In the Last Supper icon everyone is welcome.
The three contemporary icons are portraits of disciples who eat together, around a table, exchanging ideas with their teacher. Jews, African female priests, and Hindus all eat together. Slight spaces between the disciple allow the viewer to sit at a table where all are welcome. The abstract line patterns on the table are not only decorative, they symbolize the conversation between the disciples. The white oval table is where we come to Eucharist for prayer, feeding, and to be nurtured. In the first more classic version, Jesus is wearing his characteristic red and blue robes and shown in hierarchical perspective—higher than the other figures. I have included a few women.
“Are not we all capable of betrayal?”
Based on a statement in John 13:23, “One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him,” artists have shown John, as the youngest disciple, laying his head against Jesus. The gesture is one of respect and humility towards our teacher. The other two Last Supper icons are considered art since they break so radically with tradition. Early icons show eleven disciples, most often gazing out at the viewer, head on, with nothing to hide, or at least a three-quarter view.
Judas is usually included as the twelfth disciple not looking directly at the viewer because of his apparent guilt and eventual betrayal. In the original Andrei Rublev icon of the Last Supper the composition has five disciples shown in profile; perhaps alluding to how easy it is to turn away from Christ. Judas is not the only follower of Christ guilty of betrayal.
Based on Biblical text, the one dipping his bread in the wine is the betrayer. So, icons distinguish the one reaching into a vessel or towards the bread as Judas. Here we have two disciples reaching across the table. This rendition leaves it ambiguous as to which disciple is Judas, driving home the inquiry, “Are not we all capable of betrayal?
Books by Mary Jane Miller