A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!
Entry into Jerusalem
Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What do you find unusual about this image?
Describe any specific things in this fresco that strike you.
Read the Scripture: 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,
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.
Some thoughts and questions to ponder
One of the first things we notice about this fresco is the color…or, rather, the lack of color. What is this image telling you?
Where is the source of light in this image? How might Isaiah 9:2 inform this particular interpretation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem?
John’s record of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the simplest of the four Gospels and lacks some of the details contained in the other accounts (see Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40). Why might to John’s Gospel have been chosen as the inspiration for this fresco panel?
The quotation in verse 15 is from Zachariah 9:9. What kind of kingdom is the prophet describing?
The other quotation (verse 13) is from Psalm 118:26. Read verse 27 as well. What more do these verses suggest is happening in this “triumphant procession”?
There are palms being waved in the air. But there’s also something else being waved in the air. What is it? How has the artist included it, and why?
Lord, I know that there are places of shadow in my life – places that I would rather keep hidden away; places that I’m afraid to look at; and, places that I do not even know about yet. I also know that there is no place too dark for you – no place is beyond your reach; no place is stronger than your love; and, no place is a secret to you. I have asked you to enter into my life – my whole life. So, when you start riding into the those dark places, like the one you were writing into today, give me the courage to welcome you, and the faith to pray, “Lord, save me.”
Lord, we are told that you made your way steadfastly to Jerusalem. No detours, no distractions, no diversions. I can hardly imagine. It seems that I am regularly tempted to turn back, or at least to veer off course, or to just stop and…well, to just stop. Whatever Jerusalem awaits me today, or tomorrow, or the next, I have no hope of getting there unless I stay with you. Matthew tells us that you used to beasts to enter the city. Could one be for you, and one for me, so I can stay by your side, and you can stay by mine?
A Word from the Tradition
In his humility, Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. His love for us will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven. So let us read before his feet, not garments or Solis all of branches, but ourselves… We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. —From a sermon by Andrew of Crete (8th century)
Image: © Entry into Jerusalem by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration