I love the vignettes that follow the Resurrection story in the gospels as this reality of a New Life began to sink into the consciousness of the beloved ones of Jesus. I especially love the story of the wandering ones making their way to Emmaus, wrestling with their previous expectations and understandings of of what Jesus said was going to happen and how it fit the paradigms of what they thought they already knew. Jesus joins them, but they are so preoccupied with their questions and presuppositions that they never recognize him. Until they broke bread together at the table. And we read that it was in the breaking of the bread together that they saw him.
Diego Velasquez has an acute lens on that moment in his painting called ‘The Serving Girl,” in display at the National Gallery of Ireland. In the upper left corner of the painting, one can see Jesus and the two questioners sitting at the table about to break bread. But the foreground is filled with the image of the Serving Girl who is providing them with the food, and surely will be washing up afterwards. The two seekers have yet to get it, but she already has recognized that this is Jesus–risen from the dead, walking and talking with them, nourishing them with his very Presence. What is there about sitting at table with another that allows to see deeply and truthfully into the identity of another?
As I have shared meals with other in this first week of Eastertide, some festive celebrations, some intimate tete-a-tetes, some casual coffees, I recognize that knowing and loving another is a full body experience at its best. It is multi-sensory–ambiance matters, from setting to decorations. Tastes sharpen our palates when we share bread–and cheese or jam or pate. “There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk,” says the late food writer M.F.K. Fisher. I love the moments when one at the feast says to another, “Here; have a bite of this!,” or “May I just taste your dessert?” Aromas of good cooking that we share allow us a sense of a deep comfort we might call “home,” whether or not our own home had such a great culinary menu.
However, it is the Serving Girl who brings the one thing necessary to the soul-knowing that gives life. She is paying attention. Although no one seems to pay attention to her, as one whose skin color pegs her as an outsider, as one whose status in the household gives her no privilege, as one whose only viewpoint is that from afar–she knows, she trusts, she believes and she smiles in the New Life that she witnesses. All things are new now! Christ is Risen!
I am paying greater attention to those with whom I share a table this Eastertide–making sure that my cell phone is put away, listening for the words spoken and unspoken, taking note of where we meet, of where beauty attends us, of how well we can hear each other. When someone comes to my house, even just for tea, I want each table tryst to be a holy moment, so that I can see with fresh eyes the new creation sitting with me and before me.
And my prayer is that my heart will be that continually open one to the old friend, the new friend, the grieving one, the rejoicing one, the baffled one and the the baffling one. “Come in and stay with me, Lord Jesus.”