The walk to Emmaus is one of the high points of gospel narrative. The journey, the lonely road, two bewildered travellers, the unlooked for stranger who becomes a companion, the change of conversation, and the way the journey passes quickly in such company. Each of these are features of the skilled storyteller, and each of them exactly what I guess are universally recognised clues for what we all need when walking the road of uncertainty ourselves - company, conversation and companionship that stays with us.
The Emmaus walk and the Emmaus Supper have provided artists with some of the most emotionally charged narrative and some of the most poignantly imaginative encounters in the entire Christian tradition. For those who are honestly facing the realities that call previous certainties in question, or who have reached those unknown places of uncertainty and significant life change, Emmaus is a pivotal story. "He took bread and blessed and broke it....And their eyes were opened...and he vanished from their sight".
Easy to miss that. The moment of recognition lasts just long enough to surprise, remind, reassure, and to release vision and energy enough for a lifetime. Open-eyed recognition, and he vanished. Like those first disciples, the reader today wishes he had stayed longer, we long for more permanence. Yet. Whatever else faith is, it cannot be chronic certainty. The constituents of faith are wonder and surprise, risk and trust, voluntary vulnerability, and contentment with hints of truth and glimpses of glory. That walk to Emmaus could have left the disciples where they were - bewildered, resentful, and in terms of life purpose at a loose end. "and a stranger drew near...and they didn't recognise him...". But he walked with them just the same, won confidence enough to not only speak, but be listened to, and on being asked to stay longer, like a good guest, he welcomed their welcome, and shared their meal.
For all kinds of reasons Luke's Emmaus narrative of that troubled journey and its resolution, touches into those deep places of our human experience, those parts of our journey that are also troubled, from which we don't emerge unscathed or unchanged. But in the breaking of bread, the Guest becomes the Host, our eyes see, and our souls are fed - and life is nourished again towards wholeness.
in trying to get hold of things mysterious
we try to invent something definite
and mystery can never be defined
or must always be redefined
or better yet
come at newly and indirectly
through stories and things around us
thru parables and food
The window was designed by William Morris. The verse is quoted in an early book by Sallie McFague, Speaking in Parables, Fortress, 1975, p.114.