The 1987 Danish film, Babette's Feast, is a deliberate, stark examination of the ways in which people continue to need the peace that Christ's perfect love provides. The subject church community, ministered to by two elderly daughters of their dead pastor, bicker and pick at each other a little each day, their contempt and hatred and jealousy showing through the thin veneer of their pious words. Babette arrives, the stranger entering their difficult existence, having fled Paris in the wake of the murder of her husband and son. She comes recommended by the former suitor of one of the ladies, who take her in without question.

Babette serves them silently, faithfully, for more than a decade, allowing the elderly sisters to teach her their meagre cooking methods, patiently enduring the primitive conceptions of food in their community. One day she receives word that she won a lottery drawing of 10,000 francs. The sisters assume she will leave them, returning to Paris with her fortune. In fact, Babette asks permission to cook a French meal in honor of the sisters' late father's one hundredth birthday. It is this feast, made with terrifying, exotic ingredients like quail and turtle and wine, that changes the hearts of these simple people. Babette spends all the lottery winnings on this gift to the community, cooking everything herself. She never asks for or receives credit, though a former French general recognizes that the signature dish of the meal was invented by a famous female chef beloved by all who knew her food (predictably, Babette turns out to be that chef). It is enough for her to have given her gift of love, selfless and fleeting and unadulterated by judgment (as the people who eat it swear at the outset not to comment on the food, and end up unable to help themselves in their enjoyment of it).The sparse dialogue and open space, both in interior and location shots, give the viewer space to reflect on the truths the film presents.

In Rick's talk at the end, he explained the Biblical references, including Babette as Christ figure (a moving example of dignity, grace, and selflessness), the people she serves as the twelve Apostles, the meal as representing the Last Supper and sacrifice of Christ himself (as she had nothing left of the money), and other notable parallels. Each of us who watched it enjoyed different features of it. I was moved by Babette's explanation to one of the sisters, upon the observation that Babette would henceforth be poor, that "an artist is never poor." Babette had all she needed in her experiences co-creating with God. Her reward was in the act of creation, not its outcome. She gave her creative gifts of love to change the hearts, through the bodies, of those she served. The general comes to understand this as the meal progresses, moved to pronounce that "mercy and truth must kiss" before the last course. He comprehends that Heaven is not something to be waited for, as these people (and many before and since) believe, but is right here before us if we will only perceive it and accept the reality of it. All our pettiness and misunderstandings are the illusion. He understands that love is transcendent of time and age and space and is unaffected by our resistance to it. Each of them, in their own ways, become wise through the selfless gift of Babette's love.

How blessed we are to have such an example.