Passion of christ

"Passion of Christ" redirects here. For the film, see The Passion of the Christ.
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In Christianity the Passion (from Greek πάσχω, 'to suffer'[1][2]) is the short final period in the life of Jesus covering his visit to Jerusalem, and leading to his execution by crucifixion, an event central to Christian beliefs.

It begins with his Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and includes his Last Supper, Agony in the Garden and his arrest and trial. Those parts of the four Gospels that describe these events, as well as the non-canonical Gospel of Peter, are known as the "Passion narratives". In the liturgical calendar, the Passion is commemorated in Holy Week, beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Saturday.

The word passion has since taken on a more general application and now may also apply to accounts of the suffering and death of Christian martyrs, sometimes using the Latin form passio.

Gospels


The accounts of the Passion are found in the four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Three of these, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, known as the Synoptic Gospels, give very similar accounts. The Gospel of John includes additional details. The events include: Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Cleansing of the Temple,

The conspiracy against Jesus by the Jewish chief priests and the teachers of the law.[3][4][5]

A meal a few days before Passover. A woman anoints Jesus. He says that for this she will always be remembered.

In Jerusalem, the Last Supper shared by Jesus and his disciples. Jesus gives final instructions, predicts his betrayal, and tells them all to remember him.

On the path to Gethsemane after the meal. Jesus tells them they will all fall away that night; after Peter protests he will not, Jesus says Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows.

Gethsemane, later that night. As the disciples rest, Jesus prays; then Judas Iscariot leads in either "a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees"[6] (accompanied according to Luke's Gospel by the chief priests and elders),[7] or a "large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and elders of the people",[8][9] which arrests Jesus; all his disciples run away.

The high priest's palace, later that night. The arresting party brings Jesus to the Sanhedrin (Jewish supreme court); according to Luke's Gospel, Jesus is beaten by his Jewish guards prior to his examination;[10] the court examines him, in the course of which, according to John's Gospel, Jesus is struck in the face by one of the Jewish officials;[11] the court determine he deserves to die (see Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus). According to Matthew's Gospel, the court then "spat in his face and struck him with their fists".[12] They then send him to Pontius Pilate.

The courtyard outside the high priest's palace, the same time. Peter has followed Jesus and joined the mob awaiting Jesus’ fate; they suspect he is a sympathizer, so Peter denies he knows Jesus. Suddenly the cock crows and Peter remembers what Jesus had said.

The governor's palace, early morning. Pilate, the Roman governor, examines Jesus, decides he is innocent; the Jewish leaders and the crowd demand Jesus’ death; Pilate gives them the choice of saving Barabbas, a criminal, or saving Jesus. In response to the screaming mob Pilate sends Jesus out to be crucified. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Judas, the betrayer, is filled with remorse and tries to return the money he was paid for betraying Jesus. When the high priests say that that is his affair, Judas throws the money into the temple, goes off, and hangs himself.[13]

Golgotha, a hill outside Jerusalem, later morning through mid afternoon. Jesus is crucified and dies.

During the arrest in Gethsemane, someone (Peter according to John) takes a sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant, Malchus. According to the synoptic gospels, the high priest who examines Jesus is Caiaphas; in John, Jesus is also interrogated by Annas, Caiaiphas' father-in-law.

The Gospel of Luke states that Pilate sends Jesus to be judged by Herod Antipas because as a Galilean he is under his jurisdiction. Herod is excited at first to see Jesus and hopes Jesus will perform a miracle for him; he asks Jesus several questions but Jesus does not answer. Herod then mocks him and sends him back to Pilate after giving him an "elegant" robe to wear.[14]

All the Gospels have a man named Barabbas[15] released by Pilate instead of Jesus. Matthew, Mark and John have Pilate offer a choice between Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd; Luke lists no choice offered by Pilate, but represents the crowd demanding his release.


In all the Gospels, Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews and Jesus replies So you say. Once condemned by Pilate, he was flogged before execution. The Canonical Gospels, except Luke, record that Jesus is then taken by the soldiers to the Praetorium where, according to Matthew and Mark, the whole contingent of soldiers has been called together. They place a purple robe on him, put a crown of thorns on his head, and according to Matthew, put a rod in his hand. They mock him by hailing him as King of the Jews, paying homage and hitting him on the head with the rod.

According to the Gospel of John, Pilate has Jesus brought out a second time, wearing the purple robe and the crown of thorns, in order to appeal his innocence before the crowd, saying "Ecce homo", "Behold the man". But, John represents, the priests urge the crowd to demand Jesus' death. Pilate resigns himself to the decision, washing his hands (according to Matthew) before the people as a sign that Jesus' blood will not be upon him.

Mark and Matthew record that Jesus is returned his own clothes, prior to being led out for execution. According to the Gospel accounts he is forced, like other victims of crucifixion, to drag his own cross to Luke adds that Jesus' female followers follow, mourning his fate, but that he responds by quoting Hosea 10:8.


The Synoptic Gospels state that on arrival at Golgotha, Jesus is offered Psalms 22:18. Some of the crowd who have been following taunt Jesus, saying "He trusts in God; let God deliver him now!", and suggest that Jesus might perform a miracle to release himself from the cross.

According to the Gospels, two thieves are also crucified, one on each side of him. According to Luke, one of the thieves reviles Jesus, while the other declares Jesus innocent and begs that he might be remembered when Jesus comes to his kingdom (see Saint Dismas).

John records that Mary, his mother, and two other women stand by the cross as does a disciple, described as the one whom Jesus loved. Jesus commits his mother to this disciple's care. According to the synoptics, the sky becomes dark at midday and the darkness lasts for three hours, until the ninth hour when Jesus cries out Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (My God, why have you forsaken me?)[19] The centurion standing guard, who has seen how Jesus has died, declares Jesus innocent (Luke) or Son of God (Matthew, Mark).

John also says that, as was the custom, the soldiers come and break the legs of the thieves, so that they will die faster, but that on coming to Jesus they find him already dead. A soldier pierces his side with a spear.

The various words of Jesus during the Crucifixion are collected from the different Gospel accounts as the Last Words of Christ.

Gospel of Peter

Further claims concerning the Passion are made in some non-canonical early writings. Another passion narrative is found in the fragmentary Gospel of Peter, long known to scholars through references, and of which a fragment was discovered in Cairo in 1884.

The narrative begins with Pilate washing his hands, as in Matthew, but the Jews and Herod refuse this. Joseph of Arimathea, before Jesus has been crucified, asks for his body, and Herod says he is going to take it down to comply with the Jewish custom of not leaving a dead body hung on a tree overnight. Herod then turns Jesus over the people, who drag him, give him the purple robe, crown him with thorns, and beat and flog him.

There are also two criminals, crucified on either side of him and, as in Luke, one begs Jesus for forgiveness. The writer says Jesus is silent as they crucify him, "...as if in no pain." [20] Jesus is labeled the King of Israel on his cross and his clothes are divided and gambled over.

As in the canonical Gospels, darkness covers the land. Jesus is also given vinegar to drink. Peter has "My Power, My Power, why have you forsaken me?" as the last words of Jesus, rather than "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" as quoted in Mark. He is then "taken up", possibly a euphemism for death or maybe an allusion to heaven.[21] Peter then has a resurrection, similar to the other books.

The Trials of Jesus

The gospels provide differing accounts of the trial of Jesus. Mark describes two separate proceedings, one involving Jewish leaders and one in which the Roman prefect for Judea, Pontius Pilate, plays the key role. Matthew and John's account generally support Mark's two-trial version. Luke, alone among the gospels, adds a third proceeding, having Pilate sending Jesus to Herod Antipas. The non canonical Gospel of Peter describes a single trial scene involving Jewish, Roman, and Herodian officials.

Old Testament prophecy


Christians interpret at least three passages of the Old Testament as prophecies about Jesus’ Passion.

The first and most obvious is the one from 53:2-5).

The second prophecy of Christ's Passion is the ancient text which Jesus himself quoted, while he was dying on the cross. From the cross, Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? which means, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" These words of Jesus were a quotation of the ancient they have pierced my hands and feet" are disputed, however.

The third main prophecy of the Passion is from the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon. Protestant Christians place it in the Apocrypha, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox among the deuterocanonical books. But it was written about 150 BC, and many have understood these verses (12-20 of chapter 2) as a direct prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. E.g., "Let us lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn… He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the son of God…and glorieth that he hath God for his father. Let us see then if his words be true… For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Let us examine him by outrages and tortures… Let us condemn him to a most shameful death … These things they thought, and were deceived, for their own malice blinded them" (Wisdom 2:12-20).

In addition to the above, it deserves to be mentioned that at least three other, less elaborate messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion. Namely, the following Old Testament passages.

"Many are the afflictions of the just man; but the Lord delivers him from all of them. He guards all his bones: not even one of them shall be broken" (Psalm 34:20).

"And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69:21).

"And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son; and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).

New Testament prophecy


The Gospel explains how these old prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion.

"So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with Jesus; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water… For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken.’ And again another scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’" (John 19:32-37).

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is described as prophesying his own Passion and his Resurrection three times:

  • On the way to Caesarea Philippi, predicting that the Son of Man will be killed and rise within three days
  • After the transfiguration of Jesus, again predicting that the Son of Man will be killed and rise within three days
  • On the way to Jerusalem, predicting that the Son of Man will be delivered to the leading Pharisees and Sadducees, be condemned to death, delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, scourged, killed, and rise within three days

Christians argue that these are cases of genuine and fulfilled postdiction (prophecy after the events have already occurred).

After the third prophecy, the Gospel of Mark states that the brothers James and John ask Jesus to be his left and right hand men, but Jesus asks if they can drink from the cup he must drink from. They say that they can do this. Jesus confirms this, but says that the places at his right and left hand are reserved for others. Many Christian see this as being a reference to the two criminals at Jesus' crucifixion, thus relating to the Passion. The cup is sometimes interpreted as the symbol of his death, in the light of Jesus' prayer at Gethsemane "Let this cup be taken from me!"


Liturgical use

Holy Week

Most Christian denominations will read one or more narratives of the Passion during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. In the Roman Catholic church, a large cross depicting the crucified Christ is brought out into the church and each of the faithful come forward to venerate the cross. Rather than having the Gospel read solely by the priest, whole Roman Catholic congregations participate in the reading of the Passion Gospel during the Palm Sunday Mass and the Good Friday service. These readings have the Priest read the part of Christ, a narrator read the narrative, other reader(s) reading the other speaking parts, and either the choir or the congregation reading the parts of crowds (i.e.: when the crowd shouts "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!") [24]

In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches, the Matins service for Good Friday is called Matins of the Twelve Passion Gospels, and is remarkable for the interspersing of twelve readings from the Gospel Book detailing chronologically the events of the Passion—from the Last Supper to the burial in the tomb—during the course of the service. The first of these twelve readings is the longest Gospel reading of the entire liturgical year. In addition, every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year is dedicated in part to the commemoration of the Passion.[25]

During Holy Week/Passion Week Congregations of the Moravian Church (Herrnhuter Bruedergemeine) read the entire story of Jesus' final week from a Harmony of the Gospels prepared for that purpose since 1777. Daily meetings are held, some times 2 or 3 times a day, to follow the events of the day. During the course of the reading, the Congregation sings hymn verses to respond to the events of the text.

Most liturgical churches hold some form of commemoration of the Crucifixion on the afternoon of Good Friday. Sometimes, this will take the form of a vigil from noon to 3:00 pm, the approximate time that Jesus hung on the cross. Sometimes there will be a reënactment of the Descent from the Cross; for instance, at Vespers in the Byzantine (Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic) tradition.

Reparation to Jesus

The Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as acts of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during His Passion. These Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ do not involve a petition for a living or deceased beneficiary, but aim to repair the sins against Jesus. Some such prayers are provided in the Raccolta Catholic prayer book (approved by a Decree of 1854, and published by the Holy See in 1898) which also includes prayers as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary.[26][27][28][29]

In his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor on reparations, Pope Pius XI called Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ a duty for Catholics and referred to them as "some sort of compensation to be rendered for the injury" with respect to the sufferings of Jesus.[30]

Pope John Paul II referred to Acts of Reparation as the "unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified".[31]

Visual art

For a full list of the subjects forming narrative works of art on the Passion, or episodes from it, see Life of Christ. Each episode, such as the Flagellation of Christ or Entombment of Christ, has been represented thousands of times and has developed its own iconographic tradition; the Crucifixion is much the most common and important of these subjects. The Passion is often covered by a cycle of depictions; Albrecht Dürer's print cycles were so popular that he produced three different versions. Andachtsbilder is a term for devotional subjects such as the Man of Sorrows or Pietà that may not precisely represent a moment in the Passion but are derived from the Passion story. The Arma Christi, or "Instruments of the Passion" are the objects associated with Jesus' Passion, such as the cross, the Crown of Thorns and the Spear of Longinus. Each of the major Instruments has been supposedly recovered as relics which have been an object of veneration among many Christians, and have been depicted in art. Veronica's Veil is also often counted among the Instruments of the Passion; like the Shroud of Turin and Sudarium of Oviedo it is a cloth relic supposed to have touched Jesus.

In the Roman Catholic Church (and some Anglo-Catholic and Western Rite Orthodox churches), the Passion story is depicted in the Stations of the Cross (via crucis, also translated more literally as "Way of the Cross"). These 14 stations depict the Passion from the sentencing by Pilate to the sealing of the tomb, and since the 16th century representations of them in various media have decorated the naves of most Catholic churches. The Way of the Cross is a devotion practiced by many people on Fridays throughout the year, most importantly on Good Friday. This may be simply by going round the Stations in a church, or may involve large-scale re-enactments, as in Jerusalem. The Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy are similar schemes on a far larger scale than church Stations, with chapels containing large sculpted groups arranged in a hilly landscape; for pilgrims to tour the chapels typically takes several hours. They mostly date from the late 16th to the 17th century; most depict the Passion, others different subjects as well.

Music

Main articles: Passion (music) and Tenebrae

The main traditional types of church music sung during Holy Week are "Passions", musical settings of the Gospel narratives, both a Catholic and Lutheran tradition, and settings of the readings and responses from the Catholic Tenebrae services, especially those of the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet. The many settings of the Stabat Mater or The Seven Last Words of Christ are also commonly performed.

The reading of the Passion section of one of the Gospels during Holy Week dates back to the 4th century. It began to be intoned (rather than just spoken) in the Middle Ages, at least as early as the 8th century. 9th-century manuscripts have "litterae significativae" indicating interpretive chant, and later manuscript begin to specify exact notes to be sung. By the 13th century different singers were used for different characters in the narrative, a practice which became fairly universal by the 15th century, when polyphonic settings of the turba passages began to appear also. (Turba, while literally meaning "crowd", is used in this case to mean any passage in which more than one speaker speak simultaneously.)

In the later 15th century a number of new styles began to emerge:

  • Responsorial Passions set all of Christ's words and the turba parts polyphonically
  • Through-composed Passions were entirely polyphonic (also called motet Passions). Jacob Obrecht wrote the earliest extant example of this type.
  • Summa Passionis settings were a synopsis of all four Gospels, including the Seven Last Words (a text later set by Haydn and Théodore Dubois). These were discouraged for church use but circulated widely nonetheless.

In the 16th century, settings like these, and further developments, were created for the Catholic Church by Victoria, William Byrd, Jacobus Gallus, Francisco Guerrero, Orlando di Lasso, and Cypriano de Rore.


Martin Luther wrote, "The Passion of Christ should not be acted out in words and pretense, but in real life." Despite this, sung Passion performances were common in Lutheran churches right from the start, in both Latin and German, beginning as early as Laetare Sunday (three weeks before Easter) and continuing through Holy Week. Luther's friend and collaborator Johann Walther wrote responsorial Passions which were used as models by Lutheran composers for centuries, and "summa Passionis" versions continued to circulate, despite Luther's express disapproval. Later 16th-century passions included choral "exordium" (introduction) and "conclusio" sections with additional texts. In the 17th century came the development of "oratorio" passions which led to J.S. Bach's Passions, accompanied by instruments, with interpolated texts (then called "madrigal" movements) such as sinfonias, other Scripture passages, Latin motets, chorale arias, and more. Such settings were created by Bartholomeus Gesius and Heinrich Schütz. Thomas Strutz wrote a passion (1664) with arias for Jesus himself, pointing to the standard oratorio tradition of Schütz, Carissimi, and others, although these composers seem to have thought that putting words in Jesus’ mouth was beyond the pale. The practice of using recitative for the Evangelist (rather than plainsong) was a development of court composers in northern Germany and only crept into church compositions at the end of the 17th century. A famous musical reflection on the Passion is Part II of Messiah, an oratorio by George Frideric Handel, though the text here draws from Old Testament prophecies rather than from the Gospels themselves.

The best known Protestant musical settings of the Passion are by Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote several Passions, of which two have survived, one based on the Gospel of John (the St John Passion), the other on the Gospel of Matthew (the St Matthew Passion). His St Mark Passion was reconstructed in various ways. The Passion continued to be very popular in Protestant Germany in the 18th century, with Bach's second son Carl Philipp Emanuel composing over twenty settings. In the 19th century, with the exception of John Stainer's The Crucifixion (1887), Passion settings were less popular, but in the 20th century, they have again come into fashion. Two notable settings are the St. Luke Passion (1965) by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and the Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (1982) by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Recent examples include The Passion According to St. Matthew (1997), by Mark Alburger, and The Passion According to the Four Evangelists, by Scott King. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar (book and lyrics by Tim Rice), and Stephen Schwartz's Godspell both contain elements of the traditional passion accounts. See also Passion cantata.

Drama and processions


Non-musical settings of the Passion story are generally called Passion plays; these have been very widely performed in traditionally Catholic countries, often in churches as liturgical dramas - for versions with musical settings, see the previous section. One famous cycle is performed at intervals at Oberammergau Germany, and another in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco uses what is considered the largest open-air theater in the world. The Passion figures among the scenes in the English mystery plays in more than one cycle of dramatic vignettes. In the Chester Mystery Plays' portrayal of Christ's Passion, specifically his humiliation before his sentence to crucifixion, the accounts of the Gospels concerning the physical violence visited on Jesus during his trial before the Sanhedrin, and the humiliating crowning of thorns visited upon him in Pilate's palace (or by Herod's soldiers, according to Luke), is further confused by showing both actions as being carried out by jeering Jews.[32]

Processions on Palm Sunday commonly re-enact to some degree the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem; traditional ones often using special wooden donkeys on wheels. Holy Week in Spain retains more traditional public processions than other countries, with the most famous, in Seville featuring floats with carved tableaux showing scenes from the story.

There have also been a number of films telling the passion story, with a prominent recent example being Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. A tradition linked to icons of Jesus holds that Veronica was a pious woman of Jerusalem who gave her kerchief to him to wipe his forehead. When he handed it back to her, the image of His face was miraculously impressed upon it.

Other traditions

  • The sons of Simon of Cyrene are named as if they might have been early Christian figures known to Mark's intended audience (Brown et al. 628). 16:13.
  • Most garments of the region were made of woven strips of material that were about eight inches wide and included decorative braids from two to four inches (102 mm) wide. The garments could be disassembled and the strips of cloth were frequently recycled. A single garment might hold sections of many different dates. However, in Damascus and Bethlehem cloth was woven on wider looms, some Damascene being 40 inches (1,000 mm) wide. Traditional Bethlehem cloth is striped like pajama material.[33] It would thus appear that Jesus' "seamless robe" was made of cloth from either Bethlehem or Damascus.

See also

Notes

References

  • Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament Doubleday 1997 ISBN 0-385-24767-2
  • Brown, Raymond E. et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary Prentice Hall 1990 ISBN 0-13-614934-0
  • Kilgallen, John J. A Brief Commentary on the Gospel of Mark Paulist Press 1989 ISBN 0-8091-3059-9
  • Miller, Robert J. Editor The Complete Gospels Polebridge Press 1994 ISBN 0-06-065587-9

External links

  • Gospel parallels citing verses for each Passion incident
  • MSN article - "Why is it called the Passion?"
  • "Passion" at Biblical Art
  • "Chanting of the Passion Narrative according to Saint John"

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