the frescoes of West Jefferson – going beyond a surface image…


Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood”. – Luke 22:19-20

St. Mary's
St. Mary’s

Today’s emphasis is more on words. I am, after all, a writer. Thursday afternoon – Rebekah and I visited two tiny churches in West Jefferson’s Episcopal Parish of the Holy Communion, where famed fresco artist Ben Long completed some powerful work early in his career.

The churches, St Mary’s and Holy Trinity, house five significant frescoes. But it is Long’s interpretation of The Last Supper that moved me. The recorded message presented an observation about the disciples gathered around the table with Jesus that was repeated, in various configurations, several times; the observation went something like this: “No longer what they were; not yet what they shall be…”

Holy Trinity
Holy Trinity

The idea took root in my soul, churned around a little, then emerged like this: After we share the bread and the wine with our sisters and brothers, receiving Jesus with wide open spirits, we are no longer the same – we can’t be; yet we are still works in progress, we are still in a state of becoming, we are still being transformed, we are still growing into the fullness that God intends.

No longer what we were; not yet what we shall be.

The fresco technique involves, simply put, applying pigmentation to the plaster while it is still wet. In consequence, and as the chemical processes take effect, the picture is not on the surface of the wall so much as in the wall. A fresco actually becomes a part of the structure where it is applied.

MORE THAN ONE MOMENT IN TIME: Long’s Last Supper fresco captures a particular moment in time. Because of their journey with Jesus, these men and women were no longer the same people they had once been. However, because the crucifixion was still a day away, because they had yet to encounter the risen Lord, yet to begin their ongoing partnership with the Holy Spirit, yet to become new creations in Christ, the disciples were at a balance point, on the cusp of something revolutionary, on the threshold of the great adventure that can only be engaged in the context of following Jesus.

IMG_3289As I sat there in the church, looking at the fresco on the wall behind the communion table, I understood that communion must always challenge me in that way; that – because of Jesus – I can never be the same again, and no matter how far I think I’ve come, I am not yet the man I can be in Christ.

In fact, my experience of Jesus cannot… must not… simply be something – an image – that is applied on me, something on the surface; the experience of communion must – like the fresco – be a part of Derek Maul, part of the structure of who it is that I am becoming…

Something to think about. Always.

Thanks, Episcopal Parish of the Holy Communion. – DEREK

6 thoughts on “the frescoes of West Jefferson – going beyond a surface image…

  1. cathy

    I love that fresco; I would consider myself very blessed to be able to contemplate such a picture every Sunday.

    I like your point about being transformed as well. I think of it as a bit like being married. From the moment we are declared married by the minister we are 100% married; no question of that. And yet every day of our married lives we strive to become who we ought to be in relation to one another. We are both totally complete and also always becoming, both at the same time. Perhaps it is a matter of relationship; perhaps all relationships share this complete and yet evolving characteristic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Derek,
    Thank you for describing, in vivid and novel detail, the moment and meaning of communion. It is transforming and dynamic, as you so poetically explain. I like reading your blog, and I’m going to follow you. (I’m a novel blogger myself, just having written my very first blog!)
    A brother who is in the cusp of becoming who God intends for me,
    Paul (Weaga)


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