Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Holy Week - Jesus Enters The City

The painting above is from a series of powerful paintings titled "The Passion of Christ" by Doug Blanchard, who is also known as the blogger, Counterlight. Doug says of the paintings:
I am not interested in the literal history of the death of Jesus. As far as I'm concerned, the historical Jesus of Nazareth is an irretrievably alien figure to us, inhabiting a world that no longer exists, speaking a language almost no one speaks anymore.

I am much more interested in the story. What does that story mean to us now on the far end of the 20th century? What is it about the death of Jesus that remains so remarkable among the deaths of thousands and thousands of other innocent young men unjustly condemned throughout history? Why should this death be remarkable in light of everyone¹s death?

I decided to remake the traditional image of Jesus. I wanted to make him charismatic and attractive; as someone who touches and is touched. I wanted to make him a physical being of flesh and blood; not some semi-abstract Byzantine Pantocrator. I wanted to make the body and flesh of Jesus teach compassion to the spirit through its suffering. I wanted that same flesh to be made radiant by the spirit at the Resurrection.
All of the paintings in the series can be seen here and here. I urge you to take the time to view them.

This past Sunday, we commemorated the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem pictured above. He went to the city, although he knew, in the end, he would be killed there.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Mark 11:1-11

The "Hosannas" did not last long.

I have not kept a very good Lent. Do I ever? What is a good Lent? I spent a good part of the season getting ready for and indulging myself during the wonderful trip to England. Hardly in tune with the penitential spirit of the season. I visited a good many churches and abbeys while I was England. Does that count toward keeping a good Lent? And there was the Lent I persevered in attending the Alpha classes, surely my most difficult Lenten discipline ever.

During Holy Week, I'm trying to do better, beginning with this post of Doug's wonderful painting and his words, along with the passage from Mark's Gospel which tells the story. Reading Doug's blog, where he writes as Counterlight, I'm getting an education in art and art history without paying a dime in tuition fees.


  1. Love the paintings, and the posting; though I have to disagree (ever so mildly and respectfully) with the artist.

    I don't think the life Jesus led is alien to our life. I don't accept the premise that time or technology or philosophy have so altered human culture or human nature that we can only, Bultmann-esque, look at the outline of the story of Jesus in order to have a hermeneutic of Jesus that is comprehensible "today."

    That said, I love the idea of reinterpreting the entry in to Jerusalem (which probably isn't the historical triumph the gospels make it out to be) in modern dress, with modern persons (Jesus, after all, probably looked more like Yassir Arafat than the Aryan we're familiar with), with an Arce de Triomphe (pardon my French!) in the background.

    Bravo! Bravo!

  2. on keeping a "good" Lent - I think you kept the best of Lent's - a pilgrimage of seeing your friends in "real" - incarnate- sharing food and conversation - what could be more "good"? And you were stripped of your possessions (your wallet) only to have them resurrect in an even finer form on the last day!!

  3. I agree with Ann. Part of keeping a good Lent is study and look at all you learned. I really appreciated the look at Doug's work.

  4. Rmj, Jesus as Yassir Arafat! What a picture for meditation! But we are to see Jesus in everyone. It's possible that he wasn't good-looking.

    Ann and MA, you make me feel better, loves, absolutely shriven. That's what priests are for, right?

    And the wallet business is still an amazement. The magic wallet has stopped multiplying money. I knew that wouldn't last.

  5. I´m off for Passover Sadar down the street tonight...donkey´s travel down my street in my village, so do goats, cows and Catholic religious processions (and Maya ones too)...I´m living in a place that is brimming with Christs reality.

  6. and Dougs painting reminds me of that!

    Thanks Doug.

  7. Leo, did you ever see Jesus on one of the donkeys?

  8. Mimi, I think that Alpha Course should excuse you from a 'good lent' a good long time. It certainly made you miserable enough to last a while!

  9. I have not kept a very good Lent either, and I didn't go to England.

    i think the churches and cathedrals count, for what it's worth.

  10. Susan, it should be worth years off Purgatory, too.

    Diane, the churches and the friends, the friends especially.

  11. I did my usual Lenten reading: The Lord of the Rings - including appendices (for the penitential feel) - and discovered something I never realized.

    I'm not a wizard, not a Man of Gondor, not Sauron, not Saruman, not an elf or a dwarf: I'm a hobbit. I love order. I lack courage, as it's generally understood. I like to read about adventure, but consider a proper adventure ends with a comfortable bed at the end of the day.

    Then, James turns around and writes an essay in which he is asked who is his model of courage, and he writes about me. I learned something there, too, but I don't know what.

    The painting is beautiful.

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  13. Mark, before I read your last paragraph, I was going to contradict you about your words about your lack of courage. As James said in his essay, you ARE the model of a man of courage.


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