Following are suggestions for using videos from Arts & Faith: Holy Week with the young adults of your parish. Invite your group to deepen their experience of Holy Week through reflection and discussion of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Since I’m a chronic planner, living in the present moment is always hard for me. I like to think through all the possibilities and then take the next step to think through all of the “probably-not-but-could-happen” possibilities. This means that I am always thinking—and going—and processing; it’s exhausting! As I look into the depths of Giotto’s fresco, I find myself caught up in the action of the people and the emotions of the crowd—both the celebratory and the foreshadowing. I identify with the artist’s attempt to explain what is directly happening—celebrating the entrance of the Messiah into the city—while at the same time foreshadowing what is to come—their condemnation of Jesus and his journey to Calvary. I can feel the energy of this tension that the artist brings to life. Although I can identify with this (in light of my overthinking and planning nature), it is to the face of Christ that I am drawn. The reflection on this piece speaks of Jesus as having, “a face that is resolved but peaceful, with a quiet gratitude for the crowd that exclaims ‘Hosanna!’ to welcome him and a deep trust in the love of the Father to see him through what he is approaching.” Let us consider what the face of Christ says to us as we begin this Holy Week.
Song Suggestion: Michael W. Smith, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord”
Questions for Discussion
- Do we reflect the crowd in the way we live our lives, at one moment proclaiming Jesus as Messiah and then at another rejecting him? Consider both spoken words and actions and things not said or done.
- Where in our lives can we show gratitude for what surrounds us?
- How do we welcome Christ into our lives at this present moment? Where/when do we reject him?
- In times when we know struggle is coming, how do we hold strong to a deep trust in the love of the Father?
- How do we need our eyes opened to recognize God?
To receive Christ in the Eucharist and to receive Christ in service are intimately connected, as Strigel’s painting portrays. Pope Francis has shared: “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you are, dear brothers and sisters, the face of Jesus.” (Address During Visit at the Homeless Shelter “Dono Di Maria,” 5/21/13). I am challenged by this painting to unite my actions in liturgy with my interactions with God’s people. I ask myself, Who am I in this painting? Christ, who is serving? John, the beloved, who desires to be served by Christ and follow in his ways? Most likely I am Peter, confused by the actions of Christ and challenged to think of God and my relationship with God in a new way that includes humbling myself to the needs of those around me and finding God in their faces.
Song Suggestion: Casting Crowns, “Who Am I?”
Questions for Discussion
- Who are you in the story?
a. Peter, confused and shocked, being called out of what he thought he knew to be true?
b. John, hesitantly trusting in the Lord and wanting to do his will?
c. Christ, himself, who with his foot fully exposed is showing us his embrace of humility and determination to live in service?
- Strigel uses symbolic language to speak to the truths of what is being portrayed.
a. What truths do our actions speak about us?
b. How do our actions of service become symbolic language? What truth does the action of service represent?
c. How does our symbolic language of service speak to a deeper understanding of God and our faith both to those being served and those serving?
- Not only does the Eucharist commit us to service, but service in turn leads us to the Eucharist. Strigel makes this connection as he makes the basin under Peter’s foot look like a large paten.
a. Has service led you to the Eucharist and Eucharist to service? How or how not?
b. What actions do we do in both? (gather, share, unite, listen, partake, etc.)
Never have I made the connection between hope and agony—or thought of hope on Good Friday. Many times I have heard, “We can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday,” but I never considered that hope was already present while Christ (and the thieves) hung on the cross.
The Ignatian prayer of the Examen asks this very thing of us—to hold in tension hope and agony. This prayer asks us to find the joy in the goodness of the day (the Easter moments) as well as reflect on where Christ, our hope, was present in the sufferings of the day (the Good Friday moments). It is in reflecting on the sufferings and being able to find God even in them that we are brought into a deeper conversion of our hearts towards Christ and are able to rejoice even more fully in the joyous Easter times—like the Good Thief who through finding the hope of Christ while on the cross was able to rejoice with him in everlasting life.
Song Suggestions: Matt Maher, “On the Third Day” or “You Were on the Cross”
Questions for Discussion
- What experience do you have in praying the Examen? Pray the Examen with your group.
- Do you find it easy to find hope during the times of agony or suffering? Have you experienced times in which you were able to do this?
- We are never too far gone or too late to turn to Christ; the Sacrament of Reconciliation teaches us this. What is your experience of this sacrament? Have you ever felt more free or hopeful afterwards?
- We are called to change constantly and grow closer to Christ, like the Good Thief does in Titian’s painting. How are you being called to convert/change/grow closer to Christ?
Pamela Tremblay is the Campus Minister in residence for social justice at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. She is also a graduate of the Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame.