The Road to Emmaus Mass

One of the best Eucharistic passages in the Bible is one I’d never even heard used for that purpose until two years ago. It’s the road to Emmaus story from Luke 24:13-35 –

13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.

17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

25He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

The order of things closely parallels the Mass, where we have Old Testament readings, New Testament readings, an explanation of how they relate to Christ, and then the Eucharist. This is done at its very best, in my opinion, at Easter Vigil Mass, where there are 7 Old Testament readings, followed by Paul (probably on Baptism, since it’s also the day converts enter the Church), and then the Gospel account of the Resurrection. Luke 24:27 describes what happened well: “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” The Liturgy of the Word.

But after the Liturgy of the Word, there’s the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where the bread and wine are blessed, consecrated (at which point it is no longer earthly bread and wine), broken, and shared. And that’s exactly what happens at the end of Jesus’ Liturgy of the Word as well. Look just at Luke 24:30-31 for a moment:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., actually has a depiction of the scene behind the tabernacle, with the words “He was made known to them in the Breaking of the Bread” (taken from Luke 24:35). If this isn’t Eucharistic, Jesus’ actions here are incredibly strange. He blesses the Bread, breaks it and shares it with them. They suddenly realize it’s Jesus, and then He disappears. Meaning He left them with the Eucharist (which is to say, He didn’t leave them at all). If this isn’t the Eucharist, what’s going on? Why break bread, begin a meal, and then disappear instead of eating?

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *