Rite of passage. (meditation).
SOME PAINTINGS HAVE A PECULIAR CAPACITY to draw the viewer into the action. This scraped painting of The Last Supper by Congolese artist Joseph Mulamba-Mandangi is one of them. The light in this intimate night scene does not come from the candles on the table but from the figure of Jesus in the center. The looks on the disciples' faces reveal that they can't quite understand what he has just told them, but everyone feels that this hour is key for what both he and they will soon face. In The Last Supper, Mulamba depicts the scene from the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus says, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Later when the risen Christ breaks bread with the two disciples at Emmaus, their eyes will be opened to this desire of Jesus'--to share the meal with them in his kingdom. For Mulamba, this desire includes a vast fellowship. The masks on the rear wall are not mere decoration. With them the people--especially the ancestors--of Africa are present with their history and culture. Masks are always worn for important rites of passage both of the individual and of the community. Jesus takes all these passages and transitions into his own passover, his passage to the resurrected life against which death is ultimately powerless.