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Lent: a time of prayer and mercy

Palm Sunday

“When they were near Jerusalem…. They brought the colt to Jesus…. and he climbed on it. Many spread their cloaks on the road, others spread fronds cut from the fields. Those who preceded and those who followed cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom that comes, of our father David!” (Mk 11:1-10).

695px-Assisi_BaS.Francesco_P.Lorenzetti_EntrataCristoGerusalemme_1315-19ca (1)Pietro Lorenzetti, in the Lower Church of Assisi, in the cycle dated 1310/1319, painted a fresco that is part of the stories of the Passion of Jesus: ‘Entry of Christ into Jerusalem’. In the centre Jesus, blessing and smiling on his donkey, divides the apostles, distinguishable by their golden haloes, from the festive crowd that comes to meet him. The blue robe edged in gold like the halo that crowns him, the garish robes of the festive citizens, who spread out cloaks and throw olive branches as he passes, the beautiful architecture defined by blue, pink and white that, although without perspective rules, perfectly signifies the moment of his entry into the city. The scene is rich in details, from the children climbing the olive tree to Judas who has no halo, from the mosaic decorations of the buildings and the city gate to the palm trees on the street and the birds that fit into the environment in a natural way. The chiaroscuro softens the volumes and at the same time enhances and highlights the various colour tones cleverly juxtaposed. The author in this work has not only depicted the episode in a very responsive manner, but has made it a masterpiece that will not leave the faithful indifferent.

bloch Ultima cenaAfter only a few days, the clamour of the feast in Jerusalem would have resolved itself into normal everyday life for everyone. Jesus and the disciples, far from any acclamation, then found themselves in the intimacy of a humble home, dining together, but for the last time. The work, which Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834/1890) executed in 1876, is kept in Frederiksborg Castle in Colpenaghen. Here, the apostles with Jesus are gathered for dinner on a terrace, where a dark curtain opens to show, beyond the archway, a panorama consisting simply of a few tall trees that seem to step aside to make way for a clear, bright sky of a pale blue. The author captures the moment when Jesus raises his eyes to Heaven, takes the bread and the chalice and institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist, another great sign of mercy. Silence is perceived and while the apostles listen with great attention, Judas turns his back on everyone, stops hiding behind the curtain to listen and, frowning, leaves. In the apostles’ faces there is no astonishment, each of them has a different expression resulting from different personal experiences and perhaps there is not even a true understanding of the great Eucharistic mystery that Jesus instituted at that moment.

Particolare del Bacio di GiudaSoon afterwards another crowd would seek him out, not to applaud him, but to condemn him. It is Giotto who, with great interpretative skill, takes into account the teaching of the Church according to which the depiction has an educational purpose. The focal point of the composition is the meeting of the two protagonists: Christ and Judas, who clasps him and wraps him in his great yellow cloak. It is the hypocrisy, the hatred of the traitor who embraces his victim, like a bird of prey on its prey, that is the decisive element. Even the two faces are studied in such a way as to render the two personalities: on one side the taller Christ looks serenely and firmly at the other, fully aware of his freely accepted destiny. Judas, on the other hand, has an ambiguous, elusive face, aware of the heinous act he is committing. The two faces face each other, but do not touch. Judas seems to want to give that kiss to Jesus, who does not evade the embrace, but rather still looks at him tenderly, as he had always looked at his beloved apostles. Giotto il bacio di giudaIn the meantime the soldiers in tumult, with sticks and torches, take him prisoner. Thus begins the road to crucifixion, the road of God’s almost incomprehensible mercy, travelled in the greatest pain, but for the salvation of all.


                                                                              Paola Carmen Salamino




  • Paola Carmen Salamino


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