The Pitcher and the Basin

Happy Maundy Thursday! Today is the day that we traditionally celebrate the Last Supper of the Lord and the Washing of the Feet.

Here is the gospel of the day:

Now, there is a lot going on in this gospel! To summarize, we have:

  1. An allusion of the Last Supper (which is written about at length by the other gospel writers).
  2. The imminent betrayal of Jesus at the hands at His disciple, Judas.
  3. The washing of the feet.

That’s quite a lot happening!

And yet, artists throughout the centuries have managed to weave these details into their artworks in beautiful ways that honestly leave me flabbergasted.

For instance, take a look at this artwork of the Last Supper:

The Last Supper, by Juan de Juanes, c. 1555-62. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Via
The Last Supper, by Juan de Juanes, c. 1555-62. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

It is a magnificent artwork in so many ways. Jesus Christ holds up the Host, looking directly toward us, the viewer, as He does so, as if inviting us to share in the Eucharist with Him.

Around Him, the apostles act in a myriad of different ways, depending who they are — and you can tell who they are from their halos, which has their name clearly written! (If you can’t read it, make sure to click the picture to enlarge it.) Some apostles look adoringly at the Host. Others seem astonished by what is going on. Others seem agitated.

There is only one apostle that doesn’t have a halo… Judas. For he is not a saint. Instead, his name is written on the chair that he is sitting on, just in case you didn’t know. And, if that wasn’t enough, out of all the apostles, he is the only one who seems to be withdrawing from the consecration. While he looks on and is part of the supper, it is clear that he wants to not be a part of the scene. And thus, it serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t withdraw from Christ, just as Judas did, and instead rush to adore and love Him.

Now, while the scene focuses on the Last Supper — and deservedly so! — another detail of this painting alludes to the washing of feet. Look at the bottom of the picture.

There is a gigantic pitcher and basin — a reference to the washing of feet!

It’s such a little detail, honestly. It took me years for my brain to even connect the pitcher and basin with the washing of feet, just because it seems like such an incidental detail, compared to the glory of the Eucharist. And yet, there it is. A reminder of the humility of Christ and His willingness to wash us of our sins in His love and mercy.

And it serves as a reminder to us: that while this is happening, Christ gives us a mandate: that we should love one another, just as He has loved us.

May this Maundy Thursday be a blessed one for all of you!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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