CHAPTER XXXIV. THE LAST SUPPER
|Jacopo Tintoretto - The Last Supper|
THUS passed this night, and the whole of the day following.
The Virgin wished to go to the Temple, where Jesus was giving His last instructions. She set out, but so dense was the crowd that she could make no headway. She remained, however, until her Son had passed, wishing once more, if possible, to look upon His face. This wish was granted.
His beautiful countenance was so calm, so joyful, that Mary's heart was weighed down with grief in her bosom. It was so serene, she knew, because the God-man realized that the great Sacrifice was oh the verge of being accomplished, and only her unalterable submission to the will of God was able to sustain her.
With the women who accompanied her she turned back to Magdalen's dwelling, and there all united in prayer, in order that, on this day of sorrow and mourning, the name of the Lord might be remembered.
Toward evening the Virgin seemed exhausted by sorrow. Magdalen's tender heart felt that it must do something to assuage her grief, or ease her anguish.
"Do you.not wish me to pass through the town and discover what is being said or done? In former days my friends were many here—they may be able to give me the information I seek."
Mary looked at her kind comforter.
"Do you think that I could remain away from His side if I knew not what was transpiring? Ah, Magdalen, one by one the prophecies are being accomplished. The voices of the prophets are sounding in my ears. . . . All, all that has been said by vision is now about to be verified."
* * * * *
Voice of Isaias
"And He shall grow up as a tender plant before Him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground. There is no beauty in Him, or comeliness, and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of Him.
"Despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity.
"Surely He hath borne our infirmities, and carried our sorrows: and we have thought Him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.
"But He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His bruises we are healed. . . .
" The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all," (Isaias liii, 2-6.)
Voice of Jeremias
" To what shall I compare thee, or to what shall I liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? to what shall I equal thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Sion?" (Lamentations ii, 13.)
Voice of Isaias
"He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and He shall not open His mouth." (Isaias liii, 7.)
Voice of Jeremias
"O Daughter of Jerusalem, to what shall I equal thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Son?"
Voice of Isaias
"For the wickedness of My people have I struck Him. And He shall give the ungodly for His burial, and the rich for His death; because He hath done no iniquity, neither was there deceit in His mouth." (Isaias liii, 8, 9.)
Voice of David
"O praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise Him, all ye people. For His mercy is confirmed upon us; and the truth of the Lord remaineth forever." (Psalms cxvi.)
"The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us; He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great." (Psalms cxvii; cxiii, 12, 13.)
"This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice therein." (Psalms cxvii, 24.)
Silence reigned. Deep and profound silence.. Magdalen sat at the Virgin's feet, her long hair partly shading her face, her head resting upon her hand. The other women gathered near. There wa3 something momentous in the quiet. No one knew what was passing in the Virgin's mind, but the rapt expression of her face filled them with awe, for they felt they were in the presence of one who looked upon heavenly things.
Meanwhile, our blessed Lord having desired to eat of the Paschal supper with His disciples, was with His chosen ones in the supper room. They were seated at the low Eastern table, reclining on couches, disposed along three of its sides. St. John was at the Saviour's right, and Judas near His left. Then Jesus, as the head of the party, "took the chalice, gave thanks, and said, Take and divide it among you." ( St. Luke xxii, 17.)
This was the first cup of the Paschal supper. When it had passed round, the next ceremony was the washing of the hands. But our blessed Lord transformed this into the washing of the feet.
And now for this menial office, usually performed by slaves, Jesus put aside His garments, poured water into the basin placed as usual at the end of the table, and came first to Peter. But Peter, the impetuous, shrank from allowing his beloved Master to perform so humiliating an action. Finally Peter was prevailed upon to yield, and the Son of God washed, in succession, the feet of all. And when He had resumed His garments, He explained the meaning of this mysterious conduct. He had given them an example of humility, which they must imitate, so as to secure for themselves eternal bliss.
But one of the chosen Twelve would be excluded from the promised reward because of his own actions, and to this Jesus referred when He spoke of the predictions made long centuries before that He would be betrayed.
* * * * *
The moment was at hand.
"He took bread, and blessed and brake, and gave to His disciples, and said, Take ye, and eat. This is My Body.
"Then taking the chalice, He gave thanks and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood."
Our Lord's Last Supper was over, but on Mary s face seemed to glow a wondrous light. Her uplifted eyes vied with the stars in brilliancy; her beautiful countenance, her parted lips, her folded arms, her whole body, expressed her worship. And even as the women gazed upon her, a sublime exaltation seized upon them.
"O precious Blood of my Son!" breached Mary. "O adorable Blood of my God!
''I adore Thee I I adore Thee for the entire earth, which as yet does not know the gift Thou hast conferred upon it!
"God, Redeemer of the world, I love Thee! Jesus, strong God, true Light! Author of life! Strength in the combat! Behold me—I am ready to suffer with Thee! All, all . .
The Virgin lowered her head. Her eyes rested upon the transported faces of her friends near and dear. A sweet smile played about her lips. Rising, she approached each in turn, and gave them the holy kiss of peace. And strength seemed to enter their limbs; and joy seemed to thrill their hearts; and love, mighty love filled their souls, so that they felt they could endure all with the Mother of the Saviour; comfort her in her sorrows, sustain her in her griefs.
"What aileth thee, O thou Sea, that thou didst thee? And thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back? Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye hills like lambs of the flock?" (Psalms cxiii, 5, 6.)
It is because the Lord has redeemed His people from servitude, and comes to establish a holy, an eternal covenant. His name is mighty. But His mercy extendeth from generation to generation upon those that fear it.
Let us rejoice!
And yet . . . while the Angels, the Prophets, and all the just of the Old Law exulted over these wonders, and Adam himself felt his repentance turned into joy, the Evil One, full of hatred and revenge, urged Judas on to the consummation of his crime.