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Outlook
News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 5 Spring 2008

Emmaus moments

* Caravaggio Supper in Emmaus 1595-1600

Emmaus moments. What are they? Well, here is one that came to me in a darkened room, in the heart of London, on one memorable day.

Its a room full of people, shadowy shapes in the gloom. No-one speaks. No-one moves. All are turned towards the one source of light a blaze of colour from one canvas* on the wall. What we see is a scene from scripture, a moment of recognition, where the risen Christ is suddenly known to two disciples in a wayside inn on the road to Emmaus a flash-point of stunned surprise. One disciple flings his arms wide in wonder. The other jerks forward and stares.

Only the Christ seems quite unmoved at this moment, glancing down as he breaks a loaf of bread. Hes a young man, clean-shaven, healthily human. Were attracted, and yet baffled by his downcast eyes, wanting to read his expression, hear him speak. But all we see is his right hand raised in blessing over the table - an open hand, loosely flexed, pointing out of the picture towards us.

In the end, its the hand that speaks, in this picture. As the eye travels round the scene, past those startled figures, to the still centre which is the Christ, it comes to rest on this hand, raised to bless. And is held there. Its this gesture that stopped us in our tracks. That holds this darkened room with such power. That arouses this gut reaction, not just to the beauty and passion of the painting, but to its claim on us to respond. What goes on here is, like prayer itself, beyond words a response of the whole self eye, heart, and brain. In a way what goes on in this room is a reflection of the picture itself, of the Emmaus story. Where, in a flash of recognition, something of the divine is made known to us.

On that day it came to me by way of a picture that sense of the infinite goodness that we call God. Another day, it might be a face, a voice, a memory, an event that speaks of something more. And I learn to ask myself, what is this something more? Is it once again that wordless gesture? A welcome, without compulsion? An invitation, without condition? Graciously made, eternally there? Ours to take, or to leave? His invitation to life and to love?