Christians begin Holy Week on Palm Sunday, which is beautifully depicted in a fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti in the lower Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi (c. 1315–20).
The artist has captured the vulnerability of Jesus entering this fateful week—his disciples follow but seem uncomprehending; the crowds, although jubilant, seem unsure of what awaits this triumphant Hero. Jesus is leaving behind the years of teaching and healing and entering Jerusalem, days that would quickly bring betrayal and suffering.
Knowing that the Pascal mystery would accomplish the redemption of humanity, Francis joyfully welcomes the humble Messianic King on Palm Sunday in his “Office of the Passion”:
All the earth, shout joyfully to the Lord,
Chant a psalm to his name
give glory to his praise.
Say to God: ‘How awesome are your deeds, O Lord,
confronted with the vastness of your strength
your enemies shall be convinced of having lied about you.
May all the earth adore you and sing psalms to you,
may it chant a psalm to your name.
Come, listen, all you who fear God,
and I will recount
how much God has done for my soul.
To God I cried out with my mouth,
and exulted with my tongue.
And from the holy temple, God heard my voice,
my crying out in God’s sight.
Bless our God, you peoples,
voice the sound of God's praise.
And all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed in God
and all peoples shall magnify God.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does great marvels.
And blessed forever be God’s glorious name
and may the whole earth be filled with God's majesty.
So be it! So be it!
—Psalm 10, from The Geste of the Great King: Office of the Passion of Francis of Assisi, ed. Laurent Gallant and Andre Cirino (Franciscan Institute, 2001).
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor.