When You’re Soul Starved
and remembering last year… and The Last Supper
For three days, for three meals a day, I stand in line looking for food, looking at Jesus eat.
The cue for the plates moves slow and soundless.
Us women all hungry but no one speaks.
We can’t. Barring my three nervous workshops, we all signed a vow of silence for a long weekend. For three days we smile and nod, smile and nod, scratch our forks across porcelain plates.
A silent retreat and every meal-time, waiting for the fish and fried rice from the monks’ kitchen, the slices of ham, the mashed potatoes, I stand and retreat into that framed carving panel of Jesus feasting.
I stand in line for supper before the Last Supper and I have never been so starved.
At least that’s what I tell myself, what I like to think of myself. That it’s the bread in His hand. The way His hand holds the bread. The way His hand is the bread.
Brenda and Leslie, their name tags affixed, step into the dining room and the line shuffles awkward ahead. I move closer to the disciples, the table, His hand.
But really — am I ever hungry at all?
What kind of appetite do I really have for Christ?
I mean, when I have to choose between a title from the stack of library books, or reading another chapter of Scripture? When we could discuss another verse during family devotions or I could check in with email, try to catch up? When I could pause and pray and enter into conversation with Christ — or I could pick up the phone and call my sister while I stir the soup?
I think about getting out of the line.
Am I famished at all?
It’s after Saturday supper, after the still of a room of thirty women carefully daubing up the crumbs of cake, cleaning off plates, returning all dishes to the labeled bins for washing, that I slip out to the hall and I don’t turn right, towards the exit, towards the monastery’s grounds and our rooms with the white chenille bedspreads pulled tight, but left, to the carved wood of the communion table in shadow.
The hall’s empty.
The heels of my boots give away my intent, my appetite.
I want to come see His hands and the bread and never go hungry again. I reach out, let my finger feel the grain, feel along hands of His disciples, brush, fleetingly, the hands of Jesus.
Chipped out of long planks of wood, He face stares back at me, the God Man who stretched out holiness on a tree and took the iron spike through the flesh to staple purity to the grain, pierce the skin into the marked rings of the years and let His blood bleed into all time, staining all the centuries with all the God cleanness.
I can hear Him whisper and it echoes off my caverns dark, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. (Jn 6:35)
And these words come again, words I have never forgotten because they changed my life:
Belief is not merely an agreement with facts in the head, it is also an appetite for God in the heart, which fastens on Jesus for satisfaction. …
Therefore eternal life is not given to people who merely think that Jesus is the Son of God.
It is given to people who drink from Jesus as the Son of God… The point of these images of drinking and eating is to make clear the essence of faith. It is more than believing that there is such a thing as water and food.
Faith is coming to Jesus and drinking the water and eating the food so that we find our hearts satisfied in Him.
Saving faith is knowing you are soul starved and the only thing that will save your soul is supping on Christ the Saviour.
Wasn’t it Leonardo Da Vinci who had painted this supper scene in the wet plaster of a chapel in Italy — and hadn’t I read that story countless times over the years from A Child’s History of Art, to the stairstep of children? —- and it was Leonardo’s brush that etched out that one universally recognized Last Supper and this art was humble in comparision, primitive, hung in the dark corners of a church basement. But this…
This scene seemed alive to me, three dimensional, and out of wood, out of trees that had roots that hungered and fed off the earth, trees that had limbs that stretched to the sky for the water, that had felt the rain fall slow on late spring mornings, the air green and musky and fresh.
Under my fingers, this wood seemed alive with His life — intimately acquainted with His death and the nails.
And I wanted to know: Who pressed the chisel, the sharp edge of the iron into the wood? Who bore all the weight of his body down to outline body of Christ into this tree, Christ with the cup and the bread, giving thanks for Himself made food for the emanciated? What hand carved these hands of the God Passover?
There’s a plaque to the side. I step over to read it, lean in close to make out the words in the dim.
Orphans boys carved this from native Indian wood….
I look along the profile of the carved faces of Jesus. His disciples.
The bowed head of the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Orphan boys. Boys with no mother to call them to the table, boys with no father carrying in arms of food, boys abandoned and boys neglected and boys with no place to call home.
Orphan boys imagined the eyes of Jesus, envisioned these reaching hands, pounded the hammers that drove the chisels into these planed beams.
I finger the frame again and I don’t know the names of those orphan boys, don’t know their faces, their voices, but I am one of them, their sister, and I am the orphaned child and I am the lost one looking for Father and for all the world, this table is the only Home.
All the destitute children now invited to the table to eat with the God who sacrificed his body to satisfy the gnawing hunger in our concave lives.
On the last days of Lent, I return to the Last Supper and am fed again with the only food that lasts.
I am home and found.
And soul full.
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever.
~John 6: 51
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