I purchased a book yesterday in one of the museum shops. The book is filled with pictures of paintings that portray the Lord's Supper. I am fascinated by different artists' interpretations of this sacred meal. I am awed by the paintings that tell the story - of how Jesus appeared, of who was at the table with him, of how Jesus broke bread. We know that this meal is what led the disciples to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread following his resurrection.
I saw Jesus last night. Jesus came to me in the breaking of the bread.
Craig and I were dining in one of Florence's oldest restaurants, celebrating Craig's 40th birthday. We knew ahead of time that we would arrive at the restaurant, get in line, and then be seated with strangers. We followed the wisdom of the hotel staff, and did exactly what they suggested we do. We were seated at a table, and within a matter of moments, another couple was seated with us. A man named John sat down next to me. John's wife, Rosemary, sat down next to Craig. We sat down as perfect strangers.
Soon food started to arrive on the table. Italian meats came first. Then came some tripe (which I said, "no thanks" to). We then had a lovely salad. Pasta arrived next. The pasta was followed by a plate of meat - four different kinds of meat. When the meat was enjoyed, a plate filled with different desserts arrived. All of this food was washed down with a huge jug of red wine that sat in the center of the table. We all shared the meal together. We all enjoyed one another's company. We laughed. We told stories. We contemplated life. We dreamed about the future. And, all I could think about was the Eucharistic feast - the Great Thanksgiving.
There is something extraordinary that happens at the table. People sit down as strangers. But they leave as friends. When bread is broken, community is formed. When a table is shared, barriers are broken. When individuals come and offer what they have, others are blessed. Craig and I experienced this kind of fellowship last night. It was amazing.
At the end of the meal, the check arrived. We were prepared to share the cost - to split the cost of the 180 euro meal. John, however, immediately got out his wallet. John treated us - telling us that he wanted us to enjoy marriage as they had enjoyed marriage - all 30 years. He wanted Craig to have a special birthday. He wanted us to experience generosity. Meanwhile, his wife, Rosemary, sat back and said, "This is just the way he is."
It was grace. Extraordinary grace.
And, that's just the way the one is who hosts us at his banquet feast each time we come to his table to participate in the Eucharistic Feast.
It's just the way he is, and we encounter him often in the breaking of the bread.