Walk Through Holy Week 2020 With This Artistic Guide
This week is usually a favorite time of year. Spring flowers are in bloom. Kids have a break from school. And families are preparing for big gatherings to celebrate Easter and Passover. But Holy Week 2020 will be different.
Most of us will not crowd into church pews or around a dinner table with relatives this year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still reflect on the meaning of this week with joy.
Walking through the milestones of Holy Week with art as a guide can provide a unique way to reflect on and celebrate these world-changing events that played out 2,000 years ago.
So, consider this a virtual art museum tour, with the Artistic Fuel team as your curator for this Holy Week 2020 exhibit.
The vibrant painting, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, was created by Wilhelm Morgner, a German expressionist painter. He trained for the clergy but then later turned to painting as his true calling.
He died in 1917 at just 26 years old on the fields of Flanders during World War I. Still, he left a large collection of colorful paintings that reflect his creative response to his faith.
On the Sunday before his death, Jesus began his trip to Jerusalem, knowing that soon he would lay down his life. He sent two of his disciples ahead, telling them to look for a donkey and its unbroken colt. The disciples were instructed to untie the animals and bring them to him (Matthew 21:1-11).
Then Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made his entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling the ancient prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. The crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches in the air and shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Passover and Last Supper
Spanish artist Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) created this oil painting in 1955. Like many of Dalí’s works, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, illustrates a tension between Renaissance-like realism with bizarre and fantastical subject matter. After World War II, Dalí became a devout Catholic, and his artwork often combined his religious ideology with his interest in science and the “atomic age” of the 1950s, a style which Dalí himself labeled as “Nuclear Mysticism.”
The work is on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to prepare for all of the disciplines to celebrate the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. Ahead of the feast, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, an act of extreme humility at the time.
Christians believe that, as the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. During this Last Supper, Jesus established the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, instructing his followers to continually remember his sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine (Luke 22:7-20).
The Garden of Gethsemane
This work, The Agony of the Garden, was painted by one of the most influential Venetian artists, Giovanni Bellini (1435-1516). Throughout his 65-year career, Bellini left behind many signed paintings. His style of painting was considered pioneering in how he portrayed natural light.
The work is on display at the National Gallery in London.
After the Passover Feast, Jesus and the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony to God. Knowing that he would soon face death, Jesus pleaded, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Late that evening in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin. He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the council had gathered to begin making their case against Jesus.
While most may think of paintings of The Crucifixion done by Renaissance artists, there was a resurgence among modern artists of depicting Jesus on the cross. Artist Porfirio DiDonna (1942–1986) painted this work of oil on linen in 1964.
DiDonna grew up in New York’s poor Red Hook neighborhood. His mother was a strong supporter of his work, allowing DiDonna to live at the family home until he was 37 years old, using the basement as his drawing studio.
Good Friday is the most difficult day of Holy Week. Christ’s journey turned treacherous and painful in these final hours leading to his death.
According to Matthew 27, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early Friday morning.
Meanwhile that same morning, Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most painful methods of capital punishment known at the time.
After his death, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb.
Dr. Oliver Pfaff, the artist of this painting, Resurrection, grew up in Germany and eventually settled in the Caribbean, where he currently works as a professor. As a boy, he painted exploding volcanoes and prehistoric scenes. But as he and his skills matured, his art became a meditative spiritual experience for him.
Pfaff says that in his artwork he tries to “show the truth that unveils beyond our everyday life, the truth of the spiritual part of human existence.”
He continues, “My art acts due to its self-understanding in a positive way on the observer and leaves traces of light in the soul. This way it enriches not only the room it is decorating, but also the persons exposed to it.”
Early Sunday morning, several women — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and Mary the mother of James — went to the tomb and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away.
An angel announced (Matthew 28:5-6): “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.”
The Bible says that Jesus made at least five appearances on the day of his resurrection. The eyewitness accounts provide what Christians believe to be undeniable evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed happen.
More spiritual inspiration
Want more art for Holy Week 2020? Check out The Lent Project, by Biola University. Throughout the 53 days of Lent — which this year is from Feb. 25-April 19 — the university’s Center for Christianity Culture and the Arts provides an online, daily devotional. Each daily installment includes a poem, a song and a work of visual art — whether a painting, sculpture, drawing or video.
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.