03.28.2021 Palm Sunday

"Entry in Jerusalem"


Giotto di Bondone

(c. 1267-1337)

“Entry into Jerusalem”

c. 1305


Arena Chapel

Padua


Giotto and his school painted the entire interior of the Arena Chapel in worship of Christ and his life, and one of his paintings is a depiction of the event commemorated by Christians on Palm Sunday.


According to all four Gospels, Christ entered Jerusalem riding a donkey and was welcomed by a crowd flowing from the city gates, laying down their cloaks as a pathway into the holy city.

There have been many depictions of Christ entering Jerusalem, however Giotto’s work is much noted due to how he portrays it in the interior of the Chapel.


With a brilliant blue colour as a background, and his highly detailed shading of figures, Giotto was one of a handful of artists at the time who could depict a three dimensional perspective in his work.


Christ is portrayed with a graceful posture and calm expression. The donkey on which He is riding serves to create a space between Him and the crowd underlining his dignity as the coming Messiah.


Note the inclusion of the children climbing trees contrasts with the symmetrical city walls and gate to the right of the painting.Giotto and his school painted the entire interior of the Arena Chapel in worship of Christ and his life, and one of his paintings is a depiction of the event commemorated by Christians on Palm Sunday.


According to all four Gospels, Christ entered Jerusalem riding a donkey and was welcomed by a crowd flowing from the city gates, laying down their cloaks as a pathway into the holy city.

There have been many depictions of Christ entering Jerusalem, however Giotto’s work is much noted due to how he portrays it in the interior of the Chapel.


With a brilliant blue colour as a background, and his highly detailed shading of figures, Giotto was one of a handful of artists at the time who could depict a three dimensional perspective in his work.


Christ is portrayed with a graceful posture and calm expression. The donkey on which He is riding serves to create a space between Him and the crowd underlining his dignity as the coming Messiah.


Note the inclusion of the children climbing trees contrasts with the symmetrical city walls and gate to the right of the painting.


Lectio


John 12:12-16


12 “The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel!’

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him”.


Meditatio

Context

The text we read last week about the Greeks asking Philip to meet Jesus comes immediately after the Entry of Jesus in Jerusalem.


The Gospel of John associates Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead with his own death sentence[1]. At the end of Chapter Eleven, after Saint John described the scene of the raising of Lazarus, he concluded: “Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him[2].


It is important to note this detail to understand the prophetic action Jesus performed when He entered Jerusalem. The timeframe for this episode is ‘near’ the Passover, when people were already flocking to Jerusalem for the traditional rituals of purification in preparation for the Feast. Then, one week before the Passover, Jesus is anointed at Bethany in anticipation of his death.


Triumphant or Tragic Entry

The most sensible thing for anyone to have done in the place of Jesus was to withdraw to the surrounding countryside, far from large gatherings and from the influential religious and political leaders of Jerusalem[3]: The Apostles themselves feared for their own lives[4]; and the people thought Jesus would not appear[5]. In the circumstances, only the determination of Jesus to offer his life freely and unreservedly can explain his decision to participate in the Feast of the Passover that year. He decided to go to the Holy City in full view of everyone for all to see his presence there.


The Gospel of John explains in this way that Jesus is ‘the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world’ by placing himself in the hands of the Jews to be sentenced to death, as John the Baptist had prophesized[6].


The Humble Messiah

Two crowds came together as Jesus approached the city gates: the crowd that accompanied Jesus and his Disciples, and the crowd that awaited him at the entrance to the city.


The crowds sang Psalm 118, a song used when the king entered the city after victory over the enemy. He was welcomed with a triple exclamation. This is a prayer of praise to God for having sent a Saviour to free his people from the rule of the Romans, just as Moses had freed Israel from the powerful hand of Pharaoh, King of Egypt.


Surrounded by such a multitude, Jesus did not have the opportunity to make any speech. Had He tried to explain that He was a humble Messiah and not the political hero they wanted to acclaim, his efforts would have been in vain.


Instead of delivering a speech, Jesus decided to perform a prophetic action that will clarify the fact that He is not a mighty king riding a horse, but rather a suffering servant who rides a donkey.


The Disciples did not understand

The First Christian Community received the Good News through the testimony of the Twelve Apostles who were privileged eye-witnesses to the events they narrated. Those who walked with Jesus, heard him and saw him perform miracles are the primary source of the Gospel accounts. It is only after the death of Jesus, that they began to read the life of Jesus in the light of the Scriptures[7]. The Gospels contain the words and deeds of Jesus written from the stand point of His Resurrection from the dead.


John therefore writes that they were able to remember what Jesus did only after He was ‘glorified’, that is: ‘when Jesus, after dying on the Cross, ascended into heaven, was seated at the right hand of the Father and sent the Holy Spirit upon them’.


Since then, the Christian Community reads the entire Old Testament from the perspective of the Paschal Mystery, that is the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Any proclamation of the Gospel must be centred on the basic truth of our faith, for as Saint Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain”[8].


Oratio


He Bore Our Griefs.

No, it was not the Jews who crucified, Nor who betrayed You in judgment place, Nor who, Lord Jesus, spat into Your face, Nor who with buffets struck You as You died.

No, it was not the soldiers fisted bold Who lifted up the hammer and nail, Or raised the cursed cross on Calvary’s hill, Or, gambling, tossed the dice to win Your robe.

I am the one, O Lord, who brought You there, I am the heavy cross You had to bear, I am the rope that bound You to the tree, The whip, the nail, the hammer and the spear.

The blood-stained crown of thorns You had to wear: It was my sin, alas, it was for me.

Jacobus Revius (1586-1658)


Palm Sunday

Astride the colt and claimed as King that Sunday morning in the spring, he passed a thornbush flowering red that one would plait to crown his head.

He passed a vineyard where the wine was grown for men of royal line and where the dregs were also brewed into a gall for Calvary’s rood.

A purple robe was cast his way, then caught and kept until that day when, with its use, a trial would be profaned into a mockery.

His entourage was forced to wait to let a timber through the gate, a shaft that all there might have known would be an altar and a throne

Marie J. Post (1919-1990)


Contemplatio

On Palm Sunday the city gates of Jerusalem were opened to let the King of Glory enter the halls of eternity after enduring death on the Cross.


On this occasion, the Church gives us the opportunity to revise our personal attitudes vis-à-vis Jesus Christ as He enters his Passion. The Gospel describes the positions taken by:


1. The crowd that accompanied Jesus, namely, his Disciples and followers. They will remain in silence; hidden in the midst of the multitude that will demand the crucifixion of Jesus.

2. The crowd that awaited Jesus at the city gates. These are the enthusiastic spectators who soon felt deceived yet again by another “false prophet”. Denied their expectations of having a political leader who could free them from Roman dominion, they asked their own oppressors to kill their Messiah.

3. Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is said to have accompanied her Son to Calvary. She remained at the foot of the Cross as the drama of her only Son’s death unfolded. Although Joseph would have been a great support for her in this terrible moment, tradition tells us that he had died some years before.


The basic feelings that describe these three groups of people are: fear and denial, anger, and courage and acceptance.


These are three basic attitudes that we can adopt when our faith is put to the test. How do we approach Easter after a year of lockdown?

We should not fall into the temptation of despair even if we have not always been faithful to our calling as followers of Christ. Although God understands our frailty, He wants us to stand like Mary at the side of Jesus. We ask for the power of the Spirit in this moment of trial.

[1] John 12: 11: “It was on account of Lazarus that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus”. [2] John 11: 57 [3] John 11: 54: “Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples”. [4] John 11: 16: “Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’”. [5] John 11: 56: “Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”. [6] John 1: 29: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” [7] Luke 24: 27: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures”. [8] 1 Corinthians 15: 14

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