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  • Writer's picturePaul G. Chandler

A VISUAL MEDITATION - "The Coming Supper"

Updated: May 18

By Paul G. Chandler - May 18, 2024

Yasser Rostom, The Coming Supper, Ink and watercolor.

This weekend the feast of Pentecost is being celebrated by many Western Christian religious traditions. I have always loved this feast day, as it represents to me the transformational power of what I like to refer to as the “divine mosaic” of our world.

The Scriptures that are usually read on Pentecost tell of the early days of those desiring to continue following the teachings and example of Jesus after he was no longer with them. It was the very beginning of what was to become a worldwide movement of people who sought to follow the way that Jesus demonstrated and taught about how we should live together in our world. The Scripture reading speaks to an issue that is at the heart of our world today: the beauty of diversity. The reading, from the Book of Acts, says, that among those present in the crowd that day were “Arabs, Persians, Egyptians, Libyans (North Africans), Medes, residents of Rome (Italians), Crete, Turkey, Asia and Mesopotamia.” In the literary genre of that time, it was the writer’s descriptive way of saying “those from everywhere around the world” were present. Not only were they present to listen, but the reading says that each of their native languages was honored that day. It is fascinating to me how closely this mirrors the visual description in the Christian Scriptures about the end of time, where we are told that “a great crowd that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” is in the beautiful presence of God.

We are inspired to allow both that “knowledge of the past” and “vision of the future” to guide our spiritual journeys in the present. In this sense, it is an inestimable gift that today our communities are becoming increasingly multicultural and interreligious, thereby providing a profound spiritual opportunity.  

A recent painting by noted Egyptian artist Yasser Rostom, creatively illustrates the beauty of this divine diversity. Rostom, a master contemporary surrealist, is often referred to as the “Egyptian Dali.” One of the primary objectives of the artistic genre of surrealism to enable the viewer to see something critically important differently. As the renowned 20th century surrealist artist Salvador Dalí himself said, “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.”

Rostom has titled this captivating painting “The Coming Supper,” playing off the iconic artistic scenes of Jesus’ “Last Supper.” In the painting, Rostom, who comes from a Muslim background, envisions a future divine supper, where instead of the traditional portrayal of Jesus’ disciples being around the table, there are those representing the world’s diverse cultures and faith traditions. Through depicting such diversity at the table, and divine arms embracing them, Rostom is reminding us that God welcomes all people, and envisages a future where we all sit together around the table, in relationship, loving and learning from each other. It is an inspiring and prophetic vision.

I have actually spent most of my life in cultures other than my own. As I prepare to travel soon to Senegal, West Africa, where I grew up, I am reminded of how the mingling of different cultures can often give way to humorous situations. I recall amusing examples of my own language, English, being used in non-English-speaking countries. For example, once while at the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, I saw a sign by an airline that promised to “take your bags and send them in all directions!”

Through the increasing diversity of our local communities, we are being brought together as never before with those of other cultures. The paradox of our world is that we continue to get bigger and smaller at the same time. We are now well past the 8 billion-world population mark - and yet we are nearer to each other due to travel, modern communications and technology. As never before, our world enables us to have relationships with those from many other cultures, ethnicities and faith traditions.  It is what sociologists have called “the Great Convergence.”

Often, when we think of other cultures and faith traditions, we think of exploration - exploring the world and its peoples. In this world of increased opportunity of relationship with those of other cultures, one of the greatest explorations that we can all be on is to discover the Divine more deeply through those of different faith and cultural backgrounds. For each of us, it can become a spiritual exploration.

In my own spiritual journey, I have found that familiarity can often stand in the way of my own growth, hindering me from entering what I would refer to as that “deeper dimension.” The known, usual or commonplace can often present a subconscious barrier to one’s spiritual development. I think this is why Jesus, in his teaching, so often used the example of someone “other” - from a different culture and even at times, a different faith tradition – who did have that depth of experience with God. It seems to be a teaching method he employed to expand his audiences’ horizons, so they might have an opportunity of experiencing a “deeper dimension” spiritually. During Jesus’ day, and throughout history, it has often been difficult for some to accept that individuals from a foreign culture and different faith tradition may have a deeper and fuller experience of the Creator than they do.

I have come to truly see our world as a “divine mosaic,” with each little chip in the mosaic being a different cultural or spiritual expression. When all the pieces are in place, this artwork portrays the beauty of the Divine Artist as nothing else can. As the French novelist Marcel Proust wrote, “The only true voyage of discovery, is not to go to new places, but to have other eyes.” It is in the continual learning from different cultural expressions and faith traditions that our own spiritual journeys can be made most complete. In my own life, I have come to experience other cultures and faith expressions as enlightening guides toward a deeper spiritual connection with my Creator. As the Quaker meeting that I will be attending over Pentecost would say, “there is that of God in each person.”

May this feast of Pentecost weekend, and the vision of Rostom’s “The Coming Supper,” inspire us to open our hearts anew to learning spiritually from those different than ourselves. Today’s globalized world has given us a bottomless spiritual treasure chest in which to do this. In so doing, we will experience a new and transformative depth with our Creator.

Artwork: Yasser Rostom, The Coming Supper, Ink and watercolor


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