Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week

from the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection
Pope Benedict XVI
Ignatius Press
Number of pages: 
362 pages
Grade / Age level: 

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a gift of a second volume illuminating the events of the life of Christ. The first volume,Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration was reviewed here. Like the first volume, it is a book written for adults, but may be appropriate for group study among teenagers, provided that expectations regarding understanding are kept reasonable. On the whole I found it to be easier to understand than the first volume because more time is spent on each event and a certain amount of healthy repetition aids in clarity of understanding.

I led a study group for homeschooled teens on the first book and hope to do so with this one as well. I'd like to make it very clear that the teens in my group and I as their leader all got a lot out of the book, but didn't pretend, or even really attempt, to understand everything in the book. We studied one chapter per week and tended to focus on the additional significance and meaning that Pope Benedict brought out of each of the Gospel stories. There were some tough vocabulary words here and there, but the process of understanding became easier as we encountered the words multiple times (like eschatology).

We also found that having the book available on audio and the inclusion of a glossary in the back of the book were quite helpful in making the book more accessible and understandable for our family. Both of these features are offered in this second volume as well!

This is a beautiful and moving elucidation by the Holy Father of the events of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday (including the entrance into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple) and concluding with the Resurrection (with an epilogue on the Ascension and the Second Coming). There is a special emphasis on how each event of Christ's life fulfills prophecies and traditions from the Old Testament. The detailed deliberateness of this fulfillment on the part of Christ's actions are made particularly clear in his careful quoting of scripture at each event. There's a thread in this that gave me a new appreciation and reverence for the psalms.

I'm always amazed at how reading Pope Benedict's writings (both before and after he became pope) challenge me - not only in forcing me to put in the effort to understanding, but also, in a more philosophical way, to expand the way I look at my faith and at the world through the lens of my faith. Here's a great example from the epilogue in regards to an appropriate attitude towards the Second Coming:

Faith in Christ's return is the second pillar of the Christian confession. He who took flesh and now retains his humanity forever, he who has eternally opened up within God a space for humanity, now calls the whole world into this open space in God, so that in the end God may be all in all and the Son may hand over to the Father the whole world that is gathered together in him. Herein is contained the certainty of hope that God will wipe away every tear, that nothing meaningless will remain, that every injustice will be remedied and justice restored. The triumph of love will be the last word of world history.

Vigilance is demanded of Christians as the basic attitude for the 'interim time'. This vigilance means, on the one hand, that man does not lock himself into the here and now and concern himself only with tangible things, but that he raises his eyes above the present moment and its immediate urgency. Keeping one's gaze freely fixed upon God in order to receive from him the criterion of right action and the capacity for it - that is what matters.

Vigilance means first of all openness to the good, to the truth, to God, in the midst of an often meaningless world and in the midst of the power of evil. It means that man tries with all his strength and with great sobriety to do what is right; it means that he lives, not according to his own wishes, but according to the signpost of faith.

Review Date: 
Reviewed by: