The church in Emmaus could barely contain the faithful. For the solemnity of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples of Emmaus, the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land led an annual pilgrimage to Emmaus Qubeybeh, recognized as the village mentioned in the Gospel. Fifteen buses and dozens of cars came from Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah and their environs and they arrived at the Franciscan sanctuary early in the morning. The band of local scouts, who are Muslim, preceded the Custos of the Holy Land in his entrance to the village. Next to Fr. Francesco Patton, were Fr. Younis Salem, the guardian of the sanctuary, and the Mayor of Emmaus, Hasanen Hammudah. They all have an excellent relationship, as evidenced by the Custos’ recent visit to the village.
During the mass, the Gospel that gave rise to the solemnity was proclaimed. The focus of the story that is emphasized is the time when the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, which is depicted in an image at the church in Emmaus. “Once they took the bread, they recognized Jesus,” said Fr. Nerwan in his homily. “This is the moment of the Eucharist, when the priest prays over the bread and wine; there is the real presence of God.” Fr. Nerwan explained to the crowd of faithful that the passage about the disciples in Emmaus represents the mass: the first part is reading the word of God, the second is the celebration of the Eucharist. “This passage from Luke is still relevant. In fact, Jesus specifies the name of Cleophas, but not that of the other disciple, who could [in a way] represent all of us faithful. Each of us can thus go with Cleophas and meet Jesus in the Eucharist,” said the friar.
As per tradition, on this day, during the offertory, baskets of bread were brought to the altar that the Custos of the Holy Land blessed. At the end of the mass, the Custos himself distributed the bread to those present, wishing everyone a happy Easter. This symbolic moment of sharing was also attended by some residents of Emmaus who are not Christians, as a witness to the culture of dialogue that we want to promote. The mayor and his aides got in line with the others to receive the blessed bread.
The mayor, Hasanen Hammudah, had words of sincere gratitude, during his brief encounter with the Custos after the mass: “I and the mayors of the villages thank you for your presence here today and for the work of the Franciscans. It is great to be here and share the blessed bread, because sharing the bread is a sign of familiarity and communion with the people and of mutual acceptance,” replied the Custos.
Next to the headquarters of the seminary house, which was empty on this day, in a big soccer field, long tables had been set up for hundreds of people to have lunch.
Hala and Yara, 14, are twins. They came from Ramallah. “We are here with our family,” Hala said, pointing to her mother and grandmother, “and we come every year. We come from Ramallah.” Yara added, “We always very much enjoy this pilgrimage: both the mass and lunch in this beautiful garden.”
During the prayer of Vespers that followed later on, three brothers, Br Anjel, Fr. Wilder and Fr. Alexander, renewed their vows. “At this important moment, may there be within you the desire to always walk with the Lord, even at times when, like the disciples of Emmaus, you do not understand the meaning of what is happening,” said the Custos, Fr. Patton. “At those moments let yourselves be educated by the Lord Jesus to enter into the mystery of his life through his Word.”
Beatrice Guarrera – Arianna Poletti