May 13, 2012

This morning we began our last full day in this Holy Land with a visit to Emmaus.  It seems that there was some confusion about the exact location of this place, where Jesus encountered the two apostles in the ‘breaking of the bread’.

Now, thanks to the discovery of a mistake in distance in an early Latin translation of the bible, and thanks to the vision of a Carmelite nun in the 19th century, we know the most likely place of the encounter between Jesus and his disciples.

Since the discovery the site has been excavated. Now the original church is visible.

I have heard the scripture account of the Emmaus encounter literally hundreds of times before today. Yet in recent weeks this post-resurrection awakening of these disciples has spoken anew to me.

It had never occurred to me just how odd it was for two of Jesus disciples to be walking away from the news of the morning in Jerusalem. As they tell Jesus (thinking he was a stranger along the road), ‘some women have this morning returned from the tomb proclaiming that he is alive’.  

Even though they were walking away, Jesus was staying with them.  And at the ‘breaking of the bread’ there eyes were opened.

This Emmaus site has special significance for pilgrims from the Christchurch diocese.  The site is cared for by the Community of the Beatitudes, who have their only NZ / Australia community in North Canterbury at Leithfield.

our group arrives at the site

Adrian, our guide, explains the significance of the place

Alongside the Byzantine Church that was built here in the early Christian centuries is an early Baptismal font.  It is difficult to get the perspective from the photo, but it is around 1.5 metres deep.   I’ll blog more on this font in a day or two.  It is a great teaching tool for our understanding of baptism.

And some tombs from the time of Christ.  Note that people were only buried in these tombs for a year or so. After that time all that remained of the bodies was bones. These would be gathered together and placed in a small coffin for burial elsewhere.

Up the hill, at the monastery of the Community of the Beatitudes.  As they have around the world, here the Beatitudes Community moved into an abandoned monastery.

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