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The Secret of the Meal

Icon Greeting Card

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Size (in inches):

4.375 x 5.9375 (A-6)

Inside Text:

Blank inside.

Bible Verse:

 Luke 22:19a,b

Then he took a loaf of bread...and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Item Details:

The title “The Secret of the Meal" refers to the mystical reality of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Christ is the central figure in this icon and is the only one who looks directly at us. Jesus holds his right hand, not straight up as in traditional blessing position, but up-turned and opened as to show how he is offering his very body and blood for food to save all people of good will. We see eleven pyramid shaped halves of bread in front of the apostles and their obvious awe, wonder, and confusion at Jesus' explanation of it as truly his body to be eaten and done in remembrance of him. The loaves also remind us of the earlier meal shared with Christ when he multiplied the loaves and fishes, and of the feast we hope to share at the end of time. Card size 4 3/8" x 6".

Icon greeting cards are single-fold cards printed on heavy stock, 4.38" x 5.93". The cards are blank inside for your own message or custom imprint and have an explanation of the history and symbolism of the icon printed on the back.

Image Origins

Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, or Mystical Supper as it is known in the Orthodox tradition, may be found in Matthew 26:17-35, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:7-38, and John Chapters 13 through 17. This special event has both historical and mystical significance; it brings to mind the Passover meal on the vigil of the Lord's passion with Jesus' betrayer present, and the occasion the Lord used to institute the Holy Eucharist. Icons of the Mystical Supper have existed in both Eastern and Western art since the sixth century. They can be grouped into two types, one emphasizing the emotion and the intercommunication among Jesus and His disciples at the announcement of the betrayal, and the other emphasizing the sacramental sharing of the bread and wine transformed into Christ's body and blood at the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Our reproduction is of the first group. In Orthodox churches the icon of the Last Supper is to be found on the iconostasis, or the screen of icons that separates the sanctuary from the assembly in the church; it is set in the middle of a row of icons which typically include the patron saints of the church.

Theology and Symbolism

Christ is the central figure in the icon and is the only one who looks directly at us. Christ's halo, the iconographic symbol for sanctity, is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters; omicron, omega, nu; spelling "HO ON." In English, this becomes "The Existing One," the second half of the name used for God in Exodus 3:14 which is traditionally translated from Hebrew to English as "I Am Who Am." Jesus holds his right hand, not straight up as in traditional blessing position, but up-turned and opened as to show how he is offering his very body and blood for food to save all people of good will. The central action of this icon, however, is at the left side of this scene. Judas is seen reaching over to dip his bread into the dish, fulfilling Christ's prophecy of Matthew 26:23. Judas is clothed in a dark color, which denotes evil and death. To the right of Jesus is the Beloved Disciple, who rests his head on the breast of Christ. He, like Judas, wears a tunic of a single color, in contrast with the multi-colored cloaks of Jesus and the other apostles. Red can be seen as a symbol of passion and love, the love that Jesus had for this disciple. He looks directly at Judas in horror. To the left of Jesus, Peter raises his right hand in loyalty to Christ. Not all of the figures around the table are identified with specific apostles, even by the artist. We see eleven pyramid shaped halves of bread in front of the apostles and their obvious awe, wonder, and confusion at Jesus' explanation of it as truly his body to be eaten and done in remembrance of him. The loaves also remind us of the earlier meal shared with Christ when he multiplied the loaves and fishes, and of the feast we hope to share at the end of time. Icons are meant to represent spiritual rather than physical reality. There are no shadows or consistent highlights in this image. Each saint shines with his own divine light. Architectural features are sketched in simplified, almost abstract ways to prevent distraction from the people and their actions. Inverse perspective (drawing closer objects as smaller rather than larger) is used to draw the viewer into the scene.


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