Wilhelm Morgner, “Entry of Christ into Jerusalem,” 1912
Wilhelm Morgner’s Entry of Christ into Jerusalem is an expressionist interpretation of the Gospel scene that leads us into Holy Week. Expressionism values mood and communicating a subjective perspective through color and form; in this, the image here is more of a meditation than a narrative depiction of the events of the Gospel.
Morgner meditates on Christ’s entry into Jerusalem through an arrangement of silhouettes in bright colors. The image is made up of two overlapping scenes. In the foreground, we see one silhouette riding on a donkey, while another seated figure extends his arms in welcome. The colors on the bodies of these two figures are almost identical: red with some green, yellow, and orange. In this, Morgner portrays a common identity between Jesus and those who cheered to welcome him into the city. This identity is perceived by both Christ and the people, but differs in emphasis. The people cheering see a temporal identity: a Messiah, one of them who will become their liberator and restore Israel. But Jesus makes his way into Jerusalem to enter into the depth of the human condition through an unjust and violent death.
In the background, we see another scene: a row of six orange and green figures flanking a central, blue silhouette. The central figure, haloed, is an image of Christ, but instead of an emphasis on common identity, here he is marked by otherness and standing apart. He is the darkest of all the figures. He also has multi-dimensional presence, as his blue form saturates the donkey in front of him, stands with the six next to him, and passes through a red arched opening into the dark blue night behind the two scenes. He transcends chronology in this way to show that what he is about to accomplish in his Passion is a cosmic reality that transcends time and space. He is Christ yesterday, today, and forever, and the story of his entry into Jerusalem is also the entry into this mystery which continues to govern our reality to this day.
The darkness of his form evokes apprehension: we know what is coming on Calvary. As we meditate on Christ’s Passion at the beginning of Holy Week, we face again the Cross and all the violence leading up to it. We enter the Passion with Christ in the hope of accompanying him through the empty tomb as well.
Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, director of ministerial formation at Saint John's University School of Theology and Seminary.
In the Year in Our Church section of Finding God, Grade 5, children reflect on the events of Holy Week. Tell children to fold together two sheets of paper to make a short booklet. Have children write Holy Week on the cover and decorate it. Review the days of Holy Week. Have children write one day of Holy Week at the top of each page. Then have children write a brief prayer to Jesus for each day of Holy Week and decorate the pages. Encourage children to use this booklet during Holy Week to thank Jesus for his sacrifice.