13Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. 17And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” 18Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” 19And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” 25Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. 28Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. 30Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
1. How does the account of the two disciples on the journey to Emmaus resemble a liturgy?
When Christ first approached the two disciples, they could not recognize Him. They relayed to Him their concerns and He both rebuked and comforted them from “Moses and all the prophets.” The gospel describes this part of the story with “their eyes were restrained.” In the liturgy of the Word during the litany of the gospel, the focus of the prayer is opening the eyes and the hearts. We have requests like “blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear, make us worthy to hear and act according to Your holy gospel.” And the priest during the circle around the altar, carrying the gospel with the deacon, recite the praise of Simeon: “let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” In this part of the liturgy Christ speaks to us and we perceive His presence in His church. The responses of the gospel indicate the true presence of Christ: the priest says, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” the congregation stands, candles are lit, the priests offer incense during the reading of the gospel.
The second part of the story is around the table, where Christ Himself breaks the bread. He disappears in the same moment of the breaking. Christ leaves the disciples His broken body, which is the perfect sign of His presence with them. In the second part of the liturgy (the liturgy of the faithful) we move to the altar, we uncover the gifts, the transformation happens, the priest breaks the body of Christ. Immediately before communion, we shout “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” as the priest offers us the broken body of Christ.
2. In which sense did they perceive Christ, and when did this perception reach its maximum?
The perception of Christ was in the mind and the heart: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” It reaches its maximum with the “opening of the eyes” at the breaking of the bread.