The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. (Lk 24:35)
Today’s Gospel reading opens with the conclusion of the narrative known in Christian art and lore as the “Road to Emmaus”. This narrative speaks of how Cleopas and another unnamed disciple of Jesus left Jerusalem and walked about seven miles when they encountered the risen Lord. Yet, they knew Him not by sight. Jesus spoke of Sacred Scripture, interpreting it for them – and their hearts burned within them (Lk 24:32). Yet, they knew him not by word. Jesus accepted their invitation to stay with them. Yet, they knew him not by hospitality. Only in the breaking and the blessing of the bread did they come to know him.
These disciples of Jesus left Jerusalem because they thought that their discipleship was at an end. This realization was more disconcerting than we can imagine because, as these followers stated, they had been “hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). And since Jesus had been in life to them a “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all people” (Lk 24:19), their disappointment at the death of Jesus was indeed staggering!
To aid us in today’s examination of Sacred Scripture on this 3rd Sunday in Easter, we place on our bulletin cover a painting attributed to the Le Nain Brothers, entitled The Supper at Emmaus (1645). The brother Parisian artists did not paint with the subtle mastery of others who portrayed this biblical theme: Caravaggio, Titian, Tintoretto, Rubens, Rembrandt, or even Velazquez. The baroque of the Le Nain brothers was not the vigorous baroque of Peter Paul Rubens. Still, they were talented French guild painters whose craft depicted peasants in a sober and dignified manner (unlike Dutch genre works): the still, human figures of this and their other works express a precious and solemn piety.
We present here only a detail of the entire work. The work itself is too wide to be fully viewed in portraiture. Also, we purposely left out the full image of Jesus so as to simulate his vanishing from sight at the breaking of the bread. Instead, we present the bread and the wine as the central focus, or rather the Body and Blood of Christ once blessed and consecrated.
In our image we see the venerable hand of Jesus in blessing posture just as it is about to release its touch and disappear from his disciple’s sight. The younger bearded man places his hands across his heart as he finally recognizes Jesus before He vanishes. However, the older bearded man has captured the wisdom of this transforming event as he sits Moses-like at Passover (Ex 12:11) with staff in hand gazing upon both species of the Holy Eucharist. This elderly man also serves to remind us of the ancient priesthood of Melchizedek which once brought forth bread and wine (Gn 14:18) as a foreshadowing of the Blessed Sacrament.
In truth, Cleopas and the other disciple never lost sight of Jesus. Even after his mysterious disappearance, Jesus was truly present to them in what still appeared to be bread – but which had become the Body of Christ.
– Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services