The Great Banquet – 29 August 2022
A great banquet is being prepared. In a building towards the back of the painting (on the right) an inner room has been readied, and swags hang at the windows. Outside, under the shade of trees, tables are set with white clothes. There are young people everywhere acting as messengers and servants. Some are dressed in colourful clothes others are being dressed in white. All of them appear like angels from renaissance paintings.
Who will be the guests at the banquet? Who will be most welcome?
The messengers have been out to gather people in. Here they enter the scene from the left, accompanying those that they have found. First of all there is a group where two children lead a blind man by the hands. Behind these three are a very poor family, a woman and her husband/partner and their two children, again accompanied by a child. The preparatory sketch for this element of the painting is shown below.
Behind them is a further group of people being brought to the feast, those who are weak and poor. They raise their heads to try to see what awaits them. At the front of this group a man turns to point the way, we wonder what he is saying. To the right at the front there is a steward, graciously greeting all of these special guests.
The picture here is The Great Banquet by Eugene Burnand (1850-1921), a prolific Swiss painter and deeply religious man. His Protestant beliefs influenced the content of many of his paintings. He became best known in Europe for his illustrations of “The Parables”, that was published in French.
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’
Luke 14: 1, 7-14
I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.
I’d love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I’d love the angels of heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I’d give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer
To every one.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make each contented for their own sake.
I’d like Jesus to love me too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.
St Brigid’s Prayer