The Peasant Wedding, Pieter Breughel the Elder, 1567
The painting is called The Peasant Wedding, and it shows a summer party set in a barn. We can see the bride sitting in front of a green hanging, wearing a crown, but she is sitting there passively, not participating in the eating or drinking taking place around her. She is almost statuesque, like a sculpture of Our Lady. The wooden tables and chairs are roughly fashioned and the food on offer appears to be bread, porridge and soup. Humble food is being served in a humble setting. Like all of Breughel’s paintings, scholars identify symbolic references and clear moralistic undertones to them. Here it has been suggested that the painting serves as a warning against the deadly sin of gluttony, as almost every guest (except the bride), seem to be preoccupied with eating. Even one of the two musicians stares in the direction of the food servers, keen to eat.
Certainly no one appears to be interested in the spiritual nature of the occasion. The largest figure in the whole painting, is the servant in his light blue shirt and white apron who is the focal point. It isn’t the bride or the officials, but the servant that is celebrated here by Breughel. The feast seems sumptuous but there is not much food on the plates and with the bride being reserved, the painting depicts humility versus the gluttony it is surrounded by.
God is inviting everyone to the wedding with great generosity. All we have to do is accept the invitation and take our place. It is an invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven which is sent out to everyone. But like with any invitation, we are free to accept it or not. We are free to say yes or no. But as generous and all-inviting as God’s invitation is, it is not to be taken for granted. We should feel privileged that we are invited and love God all the more for it.
Father Alex McAllister SDS