With each passing year the unfolding of the Resurrection Gospel of Emmaus becomes more luminous, more transparent like the favorite page in an old book, the page that with each reading delights one anew. The repetition and ritual recurrence of the Word shapes and reshapes the Church, making her ever more perfectly Christ’s beloved Bride, the Companion of the New Adam, born from His pierced side. You recall that it was this very page of the Gospel that was given us by the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II as the heart of his message for the Year of the Eucharist. He presented the mystery of Emmaus as a kind of Eucharistic icon.
Stay With Us, Lord
Mane nobiscum, Domine. “Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening” (Lk 24:29). In making these words the title of his Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II gave the Church a clear orientation for our times. He gave each one of us a kind of personal spiritual direction. More than that, he taught us to pray using these very words: Mane nobiscum, Domine. “Stay with us, Lord.” He taught us to pray as the Holy Spirit had taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to pray. Poor wayfarers they were: bewildered and dejected men, sorrowing and not quite knowing what to think, not quite knowing what to do with their lives.
Christ the Wayfarer
Another Wayfarer came to walk with them on the way. Pope John Paul II writes that, “weighed down with sadness, they never imagined that this stranger was none other than their Master risen from the dead. Yet they felt their hearts burning within them (cf. v. 32) as he spoke to them and ‘explained’ the Scriptures. The light of the Word unlocked the hardness of their hearts and ‘opened their eyes’ (cf. v. 31).”
The Prayer of Desire
It was at this moment that the Holy Spirit caused a mysterious invocation to well up from deep inside them. They spoke prophetically, not for themselves alone, for all wayfarers of every time and place. They spoke for the pilgrim Church, for the Church hungry and thirsty as she makes her way through history. They spoke for the Church, the Bride of Christ, burning with desire to behold His Face, to hear His voice, to abide, adoring, in His presence. “Stay with us, Lord” (Lk 24:29).
The Real Presence
Taking their prayer to heart, Jesus “went in with them” (Lk 24:29). “And it came to pass, whilst He was at table with them, He took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight” (Lk 24:30-31). He vanished out of their sight, but His real presence remained. There, in the Bread set before them on the table, they began, with the eyes of faith, to discern the Eucharistic Face of their Lord, the blessed Countenance of Christ hidden beneath the sacramental veils.
In that moment, after that mysterious Breaking of the Bread, two disciples, with a fire burning in their hearts, discovered with amazement the Eucharistic adoration that, over the course of the centuries, would be discovered and cherished by the Church obedient to the command of her Lord: “Do this for a commemoration of me” (Lk 22:19).
Pope John Paul II’s Year of the Eucharist was more than a passing observance; it was a grace of conversion in the strictest sense of the word: a turning toward the Eucharistic Face, a rekindling of that fire that burned in the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus. The Year of the Eucharist was a beginning, not an end. What have we done with its unique grace? How has it changed us? We will be held accountable for it. “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more” (Lk 12:48).
The Eucharistic Face of Christ
Live, then, in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Adore the abiding presence of the Divine Wayfarer. The Paschal Mystery is fire and light. That the fire may burn brightly within, pray ceaselessly: Mane nobiscum, Domine (Lk 24:29). And that the light of His Face may shine before your eyes, say with faith again and again: “Lift up the light of your Face on us, O Lord” (Ps 66:2).