The ancient masters used the floating donkey in the icons of Entry into Jerusalem to show how Jesus changes the spiritual dimension of what we expect.
One page from my book Life in Christ by Mary Jane Miller
Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey happens the week before Passover and his Crucifixion. In the Entry into Jerusalem Icon, Jesus looks back over his shoulders to console his followers as they grumble their concern for his return to Jerusalem.
He has no fear as he approaches the city where he will be betrayed, abandoned, and murdered. This event marks Jesus’ final teaching. This story opens the first scene in the passion narrative that leads up to his crucifixion. Matthew and Luke mention the people spreading out their cloaks on the roadway before Jesus. We see the children in the palm trees cutting down the branches. The palms mentioned in John’s gospel are ancient symbols of victory.
Earliest icons of Entry into Jerusalem
The earliest iconography of Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem had the donkey floating off the ground. What a concept. In more contemporary icons, the donkey is positioned realistically, walking on the ground.
Yet in doing so, the original message loses an important theological tenant. The ancient master iconographers used the floating donkey to show how Jesus changes the spiritual dimension of what we expect. Many saints around the world have been reported as having levitated; they rise or float as if to defy the weight or burden of their earthly body.
We see Jesus traveling from the Mount of Olives on the left, toward the Holy City, on the right. On the mountain slope we see a black shape. There are many small black spaces in icons, some are windows on buildings and some indicate the caves where hermits and mystics might have lived. A building or cave is a metaphor for the hermit’s life, they maintain an interior conversation with God as they seek his wisdom and light.
Black is the color to represent the absence of God where we work to live in the light. Many sages have chosen to renounce the world and live in extreme denial of the physical to attain the heights of what it means to be spiritual. The dark night of the soul is a term used by mystics to describe the absence of being able to relate to the world as we know it. Without their commitment to test and be tested by the limits of what we accept as reality, all of creation would remain in darkness.
Her latest book LIFE IN CHRIST
For more information about Mary Jane Miller’s meditations in Mexico and Mary Jane Miller iconography and her wonderful ministry, visit her blog at San Miguel icons. You may find out about her books at and you can follow Mary Jane on LULU.com and Facebook. Mary Jane’s wonderful workshops have been suspended due to Corona stay tuned at Sacred Icon Retreats.
Miller is a Women iconographer, written many books on history icons, icon painting, Icon Books, religious imagery, byzantine icon books, christian art books books about biblical paintings, early christian art books, iconography art books, catholic icon, books of Christ paintings, painting Saint Mary, Painting Jesus, Jesus in paintings.