2,000 years ago, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples in Jerusalem. 500 years ago, Jan Willems painted this event for the Sint-Kwinten’s Church in Leuven. This was celebrated on Saturday 15 October 2022 by the faith community of Sint-Kwinten’s together with the wider pastoral zone Leuven aan de Dijle.
Centered on the theme “This is my Body”, the painting was presented from three perspectives. The artistic-historical aspect was to be presented by Lambert Juveyns, but due to voice troubles it was Pierre Swiggers who related the story of the painting. Bishop Koen Vanhoutte spoke about the Church community as the Body of Christ for the world, and Els Verlinden spoke from personal experience about our sisters and brothers on the peripheries as the Body of Christ for us.
Musical interludes were provided by a choir led by Erwin Muller. The master of ceremonies was Marc Eneman, a long-time member of Sint-Kwinten’s community team, who welcomed those present with, among others, these words:
“This celebration is taking place because the beautiful painting ‘The Last Supper’ was painted around 1521, now about 500 years ago, by the Leuven painter Jan Willems and has hung here in this church for five centuries. Currently, the Sint-Kwinten’s church is home to a Catholic international community and has been so for about ten years now. This international community is a highly diverse, multicolored gathering of people from many countries from all four corners of the world. This community is the organizer of this celebratory event.”
“A lesser-known panel painted on oak depicting the ‘Last Supper’ of Jesus and his apostles has hung for five centuries in the Sint-Kwinten’s church… It is a Renaissance work in which two moments are depicted simultaneously: on the one hand, the blessing of the bread and wine and, on the other hand, the betrayal of Judas set in one scene full of movement… Behind the back of Judas, who departs smiling, we see an apostle looking at us surreptitiously and pointing. As in a mirror, is it the painter Willems himself who wants to direct the spectator’s attention to Judas, to the blessing hand of Jesus, or to the host?”
–Lambert Juveyns, portier, city guide, member of the Historical Society of Leuven, and member of the kerkraad of Sint Kwinten
“The Eucharist aims to bring about a change in us. In baptism and confirmation, Christians started their lifelong path of becoming Christians. To grow in following the Lord and in turning away from evil, they find food and strength in the Eucharist, again and again. The Eucharist accompanies their permanent growth as disciples of Jesus. Feeding on the same living Bread, we form one community. We are made Church through the Eucharist. Baptized, formed, and fed, we become the Body of Christ, the new humanly experienceable presence of the Risen One in the world. In and through the Church, people can discover the living Christ. Indeed, the Church proclaims, celebrates, and lives His Word.”
Bishop Koen Vanhoutte, auxiliary bishop for the Vicariate of Flemish Brabant and Mechelen
“We must not believe those who say nothing will change anyway. We must dare to dream, dream big and at the same time have both feet on the ground, and see that each week we can change the world: of a Jeanne, Wladimir, Marcia, Anita and José, … by visiting them weekly on Friday evenings. By celebrating Christmas Eve together and going on summer holidays together. By remembering together their deceased friends. By not forgetting their birthdays.”
–Els Verlinden, coordinator of Sant’Egidio Leuven
At the end of the festive celebration, Father Juan Carlos presided over a prayer of thanksgiving.
The attentive audience was then welcomed to the Sint-Kwintenshuis, where they could enjoy a reception and conversation with the speakers and each other. Many thanks to all who contributed to making this festive gathering an enriching encounter.