Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday - The Last Supper

 The Last Supper, about 1525–30, Simon Bening.  J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig IX 19, fol. 83v

Maundy Thursday - The Last Supper

1325 Ugolino da Siena (Italian, Sienese, active 1315–30s) The Last Supper

Francesco Bassano the Younger (1563-1570) Last Supper

Maundy Thursday - The Last Supper

Manuscript European Bible (Ottheinrich) 15C p 85 The Last Supper

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Jesus Arrives in Jerusalem

Giotto di Bondone (Florentine painter, c 1267-1337). Triumphal Entry

Jesus Arrives in Jeruselem

A Serbian Icon of Jesus’ Entry to Jerusalem

Jesus Arrives in Jeruselem

Fresco of Jesus' Entry by Pietro Lorenzetti, an Italian artist in the early 14C

Palm Sunday - Jesus Entering Jerusalem

The Entry Into Jerusalem, Halychyna, early 17C, The National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve.  This version of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem follows the Byzantine tradition of portraying Jesus seated sideways on a donkey with his Apostles behind Him and the Jerusalem crowd awaiting his arrival. Golden circles around the head indicates holiness. The bowed head of the donkey is also typically Byzantine. The clothing of the Jerusalem public mirrors that of 17C Ukrainian burghers & the tiered gables of Jerusalem are rendered in the style of Western Ukraine.

The entry of Jesus & His disciples into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which in Christianity is the week just before Easter. In the West, it is also the last week of Lent, & includes Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday (Holy Friday), & Holy Saturday. It does not include Easter Sunday, which begins the season of Easter, although traditions observing the Easter may vary in different liturgical customs.

John The Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29,34). John the Baptist had been preaching about the coming Messiah, identifying himself as the forerunner Isaiah had promised over 700 years earlier. In Isaiah 40:3, John said, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert,‘Make straight the way for the Lord ‘ “ (John 1:23). Introducing Jesus to Israel as the Lamb of God would prompt a comparison between Jesus and the Passover lamb in their minds.

Palm Sunday - Jesus Entering Jerusalem

'Livre d'images de madame Marie,' Hainaut or Brabant ca. 1280-1290 ( Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 29r) Palm Sunday

Christians observe Palm Sunday on the Sunday before Easter, celebrating Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The reason they call it Palm Sunday stems from the fact that when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, a large crowd of people in the city spread out palm branches on the ground before him as a sign of his kingship. Throughout Jesus' 3-year ministry, he downplayed his role as Messiah and sometimes even told people whom he healed not to say anything about the miracle to others. Palm Sunday is the one exception in which his followers loudly proclaimed his glory to all.
Entry into Jerusalem in Armenian Manuscript

Palm Sunday - Jesus Entering Jerusalem 14C

1308 Duccio di Buoninsegna (Italian artist, 1255-1319) Entry into Jerusalem

The Passover story from the Old & New Testaments in the Christian Bible relates that God had sent Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt & bring them into the Promised Land.  But Pharaoh refused to let them go, saying “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him & let Israel go? I do not know the Lord & I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh considered himself to be a god, & therefore equal to any other god.

And so, it is written in The Bible, God had brought a series of plagues against Egypt.  He turned their water to blood.  He caused an infestation of frogs, then one of gnats, & after that, one of flies.  He made their livestock drop dead.  He caused an outbreak of painful boils, a great hailstorm that destroyed their crops, a plague of locusts that ate what was left, & another of darkness. Through these 9 plagues, Pharaoh had remained just as obstinate as God had predicted, & refused to let the Israelites go.

The Lord had said to a worried Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh & on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, & when he does, he will drive you out completely.” (Exodus 11:1-2). The 10th plague, the death of all the firstborn, would break Pharoah’s will & free the Israelites from their bondage, but first they had to be protected from it. On the 10th day of the 1st month God had them select a male lamb for each household & inspect it for 3 days to be sure it had no blemish or defect. Then it was slaughtered, & its blood was applied to the door posts of their homes. Sunset brought the 14th of the month, & after cooking the lamb, each family gathered behind closed doors in their own house, & ate it quickly with some bitter herbs & unleavened bread, not venturing outside.  It is reported that at midnight the destroying angel came through Egypt & took the life of the first born of every family, except for those who had covered their door posts with lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:1-13, 21-23, 28-30).

Two years after the exodus from Egypt the Lord had Moses take a census of the all the people, listing by name every male 20 years old or older who could serve in the army. The number of those who met the requirements totaled 603,550 (Numbers 1:1-46).  Most scholars agree that the total Israelite population would have been about 1.5 million at the time.

On the first Christian Palm Sunday, the 10th day of the 1st month, another Passover Lamb was selected by allowing people to hail Him as Israel’s King for the first & only time in His life. When the Pharisees told him to rebuke His disciples for doing so, He said if they kept silent the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:39-40). This was the day ordained for His official appearance as their Messiah. For the next 3 days, He was subjected to the most intense questioning of His entire ministry lest there be any defects found in His words or deeds. Then on the 14th day, He was crucified.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Passover & Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, Christians celebrate the Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem for Passover, where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him & laying down palm leaves before him. His appearance marks the beginning of Holy Week. But Jesus' triumphant return to Jerusalem is only part of the Easter Week story.
Passover. Preparation for the Seder, from the Golden Haggadah. Additional 27210 f. 15

The Galileans, the pilgrim crowd, acclaimed Jesus, & the local Judeans did not. By Palm Sunday, many of the Jews were filled with rage for Jesus. In Bethany, he raised Lazarus from the dead, a miracle which won Him renown among certain Pharisees.  Jesus took refuge at Ephrem - returning 6 days before Passover to Bethany, & triumphantly entered Jerusalem. That evening, He left Jerusalem & returned Monday. He spent time with Gentiles in the Temple, & on Wednesday He left for the Mount of Olives. Here He told the apostles of the events of the next several days, including His impending death. He returned to Jerusalem on Thursday, to share the Last Supper with His apostles. He was subsequently arrested & tried. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem. He was buried the same day, & arose three days later, on Easter Sunday.

Passover was only 4 days away, when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem that year.  He entered the city on the 10th day of the month.  Exodus 12:3, 5-6, says, Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.. . ..Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
Jesus enters Jerusalem & the crowds welcome him, by Pietro Lorenzetti, 1320

As Jesus was riding in and the people were crying “Hosanna in the highest,” either knowingly or not, symbolically selecting the paschal lamb for sacrifice.
Christ Entering Jerusalem Giotto di Bondone  (–1337)  Scrovegni Grotto .

Passover & other Jewish Religious Rituals 1707

Blessing the Sabbath Candles
These woodcuts illustrate Jewish holiday & ritual observances in the 1707 Minhagim (Customs), published by Solomon Proops, Amsterdam, with descriptions & instructions in Yiddish, offer a glimpse of Jewish life at the end of the 17C & the beginning of the 18C in central Europe.

The woodcuts in the book cover Sabbath & holiday observance, & home & synagogue rituals. Among them area mother blessing the Sabbath lights of a Sabbath oil lamp;a father chanting the Havdalah (service of "separation" at the conclusion of the Sabbath), while he holds a cup of wine by the light of a candle held by a child whose sibling holds a spice box; 4 men blessing the new moon;a rabbi preaching on the Great Sabbath (preceding Passover); grinding flour for & baking matzoh; searching for chametz (leaven); & scouring pots & pans. Also shown are a man having his hair cut on Lag B'Omer--the 33rd day of the 50 between Passover & Shavuot, when restrictions obtaining during that period of sernimourning are relaxed; Moses on Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments; worshipers seated on the floor on Tisha B'Av, mourning the destruction of the Temple; the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year; a man building his tabernacle for the Feast of Tabernacles; the gathering of palms, willows, & myrtle to join the citron in its celebration; children receiving sweets to celebrate the Joy of the Law, Simhat Torah; the kindling of a Hanukkah lamp; & Purim jesters sounding their musical instruments.

The life cycle is also marked: bride & groom under the huppah (canopy); an infant boy entering the Covenant of Abraham; & finally, a body borne in a coffin to its eternal resting place. These are some of the 1707 woodcuts:
The Havdalah Service

Sounding the Shofar on Rosh Hashana

The Lulav: Palm Branch, Myrtle, and Willow

Hanukkah, Festival of Lights 

The Merry Festival of Purim

Removing the Leaven from the Home

Under the Huppah, the Wedding Service

Brit Milah, the Circumcision

Carrying the Deceased to the Cemetery

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Annunciation of the coming Birth of Jesus to Mary in Spring Gardens - Illuminated Manuscripts

The Annunciation in a Garden, Book of Hours (Bodmer Hours), ca. 1400–1410 Michelino da Besozzo (Italian, act. 1388–1450). Renaissance (about 1400–1600) manuscript artists depicted gardens in a variety of texts, and their illustrations attest to the Renaissance spirit for the careful study of the natural world. In a society then dominated by the church, gardens within the miniature & in the margins surrounding were also integral to a Christian visual tradition.

The Annunciation is a day of celebration for many Christians throughout the world which reminds them of the time when the Virgin Mary was asked by the Lord to bring into the world a Savior who would be named Jesus.  Mary as Mother of Jesus was prophesized in Isaias 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, & bear a son, & his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
Psalter Annunciation in Garden, 1180. (National Library of theNetherlands) The Annunciation ca 1450, Book of Hours

The Annunciation is mentioned only a few times in the New Testament. The gospel of Matthew begins by describing the heritage of Jesus stating “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham:” (Matthew 1:1). In Chapter 1:2-16, continues listing Jesus’ heritage ending with a conclusion in verse 16 stating “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:16).  Matthew describes the Annunciation of Mary. The Virgin Mary was found with a child, before she & Joseph “came together” Matthew 1:18). Joseph had concerns about what to do in this situation, until an angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. & she shall bring forth a son: & thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
 The Annunciation in a Garden from the Book of Hours,  Flanders c.1460

Luke is the only other gospel to mention the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. Luke states that: “the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; & the virgin’s name was Mary. & the angel said unto her: 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women..And the angel said to her: fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, & shalt bring forth a son; & thou shalt call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:26-31)  Mary, being of such a young age, was in wonder, because she had not been with any man. Gabriel answered “.The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, & the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. & therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
The Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel, with Anne Boleyn's note in the lower margin (London, British Library, MS King's 9, f. 66v).
The Annunciation in a Garden, about 1469

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Lent - Temptations in the Wilderness - Christ, Satan, & Angels 13C

Temptation of Christ  Duccio di Buoninsegna (Italian artist, 1255-1319)

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
& he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
& the angels ministered to him.”
Mark 1:12-13

All 3 Gospels relate that Jesus spent a period of 40 days & nights in the desert immediately following His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist & the dramatic recognition given by Heaven to this event. The number 40 obviously has resonance with such Old Testament events as the 40 days & nights of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:9), the 40 days & nights that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18) & the 40 years in which the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32-34).  Mark’s reference to the Temptation of Jesus is the shortest of the three. Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) & Luke (Luke 4:1-13) both describe in detail the temptations tried by Satan, temptations to power & pride, which Jesus resisted. All three agree that at the end of these 40 days & nights, Jesus was tired & hungry.

"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered him,
"It is written, One does not live on bread alone."
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
"I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve."
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
and:
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.”
Luke 4:1-13

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Lent - Temptations in the Wilderness - Angels Comfort Jesus

Christ Ministered to by Angels  From a Pictorial Bible, French (St. Omer), c. 1190-1200  The Hague, Koninlijk Bibliotheek  MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 12v (detail)

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
& he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
& the angels ministered to him.”
Mark 1:12-13

All three Synoptic Gospels relate that Jesus spent a period of 40 days & nights in the desert immediately following His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist & the dramatic recognition given by Heaven to this event. The number 40 obviously has resonance with such Old Testament events as the 40 days & nights of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:9), the 40 days & nights that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18) & the 40 years in which the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32-34).  Mark’s reference to the Temptation of Jesus is the shortest of the three. Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) & Luke (Luke 4:1-13) both describe in detail the temptations tried by Satan, temptations to power & pride, which Jesus resisted. All three agree that at the end of these 40 days & nights, Jesus was tired & hungry.

Here the angels look like they are tidying Jesus following His confrontation with Satan.  Both Mark & Matthew conclude their descriptions with a reference to ministering angels who attend Him at the end of the time. Unlike the temptations themselves, which are frequently depicted in art over the ages, the ministering angels are not seen that often. They appear in a few medieval manuscripts like this one, but usually in the background of a scene of the temptations.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Lent - Temptations in the Wilderness - Christ & Satan 13C

Psalter (f.6) England, Central (Oxford) 1st quarter of the 13C British Library Detail

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
& he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
& the angels ministered to him.”
Mark 1:12-13

All 3 Gospels relate that Jesus spent a period of 40 days & nights in the desert immediately following His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist & the dramatic recognition given by Heaven to this event. The number 40 obviously has resonance with such Old Testament events as the 40 days & nights of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:9), the 40 days & nights that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18) & the 40 years in which the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32-34).  Mark’s reference to the Temptation of Jesus is the shortest of the three. Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) & Luke (Luke 4:1-13) both describe in detail the temptations tried by Satan, temptations to power & pride, which Jesus resisted. All three agree that at the end of these 40 days & nights, Jesus was tired & hungry.

"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered him,
"It is written, One does not live on bread alone."
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
"I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve."
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
and:
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.”
Luke 4:1-13