Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday

Dear Gustave Dore,

It has been a long time since I have written, but the season and the weather and your image make me want to talk with you, briefly. Yesterday was beautiful. I was able to go out to the farm where my horses live with Cadh8. We didn't ride, but we worked with the horses in round pen. When I arrive at the farm, I whistle, and wherever my two boys are in their pasture, their ears perk up, their heads swing around, and they come to me. It is a marvelous thing.

You were an illustrator. One of the best. Here is my question. What made you choose to illustrate the images you chose? In the book I have, The Dore Bible Illustrations, 241 Plates by Gustave Dore, you committed 23 to Passion Week. And the passion collection begins with this one, a portrayal of Jesus on a donkey.

As a woman who owns and rides horses, this illustration is especially interesting to me. A parallel question exists in the minds of all horse loving people to the one that justly captures the thoughts of many spiritually minded people. What would Jesus ride? You have placed Jesus on a fairly good-sized animal. In spite of my fascination, your interest may not have been to capture an authentic portrayal of the equine mode of transport that Jesus chose.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. . . Matthew 21:9
Your work seems to feature the folk, not the animals--And the folk are responding to the presence of the Son of David. (Well, they should.) The gospel writer notes that the folk are everywhere, before and behind, and raising a ruckus of Hosannas to the one who had come in the name of the Lord. The folk are noisy and kneeling and prostrate and silent and waving and running and curious and breathless. They are energetic and ecstatic and swarming.
But I'm looking at the donkey, ears relaxed and plodding in the midst of mayhem and the colt, that was with her. Now this is all taking place, Matthew says, because of something that Zechariah predicted.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you:
He is just and endowed with salvation.
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

You decided to place Jesus on mama donkey rather than the colt, but you didn't leave the colt back at the village. He is there too, attending the king endowed with salvation.

My horses would not find the situation that Jesus has ridden into a pleasant one. Their noses would flare and their feet would be nervous. The ears would be twitching this way and that, sensing the man to the rear left with an upraised switch and the one to the right front who had just collapsed in a heap. "Watch out, fast motion to the far left. Oh, what about the guy with the stick ahead and to the near right."

No, my horses would not have liked this at all, and eventually their ears would tense and lie back and they would decide they had had enough.

But Jesus does seem to have this animal under control and exhibiting a rider's posture, he is pretty relaxed in his seat, quickly flashing the "One Way" sign to the little child ahead of him on its mother's knee.

Zechariah says some other things in the passage that Jesus had in mind the day of his ride to Jerusalem.
The Lord their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people.
Another animal metaphor. Later he says,
The Lord of hosts has visited His flock, the house of Judah and will make them like His majestic horse. . .
So Jesus does have a horse!

But the part I like is this.
I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them.
There are plenty of images that scripture uses to elicit the devotion of the people of God. This one, I think, is for me.



1 comment:

cadh 8 said...

I was very impressed with your whistling skills, BRD. :) Your skills with the horses are very impressive.

I loved your assessment of the animals in the picture. Your horses would not have made it far but for the ultimate horse whisperer riding on their back telling them to be calm. He is creator and king riding on the back of a humble donkey.