On the road to Emmaus…
It is 6 o’clock in the morning, on Easter Monday. A beautiful spring day… The sun comes out of his sleep. In trees, the season of love has started for the birds…
Outside Zion’s door, about fifty people are gathered: young and old, men and women, inhabitants of Jerusalem and pilgrims from Germany, India, South Africa, Italy and France who came to celebrate Easter. A family from Arizona with three children is there also.
What are these people doing here so early in the morning with their sacks and hiking shoes?… They decided to put their feet in those of Cleophas and Simeon who, two thousand years ago, returned from Jerusalem to Emmaus with heavy hearts, overwhelmed by sadness and disappointment after the events of the Passion and death of Jesus. And – tell the Scriptures -“Jesus himself, getting close, was traveling with them”…
On this April 13, 2009, these new pilgrims of Emmaus have the desire to live the same experience as once the two disciples: to be joined on the road by the Risen One, to walk with him and to be taught by him, “with a burning heart…”
Among the religious present, brothers and sisters of the Community of the Beatitudes, wearing white and brown, are especially recognizable. It is they who, this year, organized the traditional march from Jerusalem to Emmaus-Nicopolis, where they have their house near the ancient Byzantine basilica.
After a blessing by Father Franciskus-Maria, the joyful troupe starts. We should not drag for the distance is thirty kilometers, and Patriarch Fouad will celebrate the Solemn Mass in Emmaus at 5:00 p.m….
From the first hundred meters, some pilgrims are introduced. Once again, the shared joy of the Resurrection helping, “the spirit of Emmaus” operates: each one talks and shares with his neighbour for a few kilometers, sometimes until the end.
The Judean countryside is all in flowers. It offered scenery here quilted meadows of white flowers, yellow and red, is a fragrant pine forest, at the horizon of hills a sheep or a large plain… The sun rays on the marchers, which fortunately lack neither water nor hats!
Before noon, we had passed Abu Ghosh. In Neve Ilan, we took out picnics. We have been walking for almost 6 hours.
After lunch, Sister Theresa gives a short meditation based on the Gospel of the disciples of Emmaus, suggesting topics for pilgrims’ sharing. Some prefer to walk in silence in order to better enjoy the presence of the Risen Christ.
When the road is harder and the sun burning, small gestures of support and words of encouragement are helping those who struggle. There is in the group a great spirit of charity and openness.
At 4.30 p.m., the whole group passes the wall of the property of Emmaus. Not counting breaks, it took nine hours to walk the journey.
Everyone is tired but happy.
The Mass, presided by Patriarch Fouad, was concelebrated by Bishop Marcuzzo, titular bishop of Emmaus, Bishop Bathish and many priests, including some having made the route on foot from Jerusalem. His Beatitude congratulate and thank the brave pilgrims, admireing them to keep smiling after such a walk… The Gospel of the disciples of Emmaus, proclaimed by the Patriarch, resonates in a new way to their heart. For sure today they would not have the strength to walk back to Jerusalem, as did Simeon and Cléophas after recognizing Christ… But they understand that they did so: how not to share immediately such Good News! The Lord is risen!
At the end of the Mass, the pilgrims and the faithful who joined them had the privilege of admiring the beautiful poster welcoming Pope Benedict XVI in the Holy Land next May.
The Alleluias joyfully conclude this day : “Yes, he is truly risen!” He walked with us on the road…