In the Breaking of Bread

caravaggio_emmaus_1606.jpg Yesterday we considered the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, using detail found only in John’s gospel. The encounter with Jesus that took place on the Road to Emmaus is recorded only by Luke. I love this encounter — Jesus meeting some disciples deep in conversation, but pretending for a moment to know nothing of the events of the past days as he asks what they’re discussing. Luke tells us that God kept them from recognizing him as they talked and journeyed together toward Emmaus. Jesus goes on at great length to explain every Messianic prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, showing how they all pointed to him and how the Messiah must die this way before being glorified. Of all the documents we have in the New Testament and all the accounts of the things that Jesus said and did, I wish these disciples had written down what Jesus had told them on this trip. Only one of them is called by name in this account, Cleopas. Apparently the name is a shortened form of Cleopatros, meaning “son of a renowned father”. Now that Jesus has already appeared first to the women, he now appears to some who were considered reliable witnesses — perhaps Cleopas had some standing in the community, who knows?

Mary, Why Have You Come Here?

rembrandt_jesusappearstomary.jpg The week following Easter weekend is a good time to think about some of the post-resurrection appearance of Christ. The painting here is by Rembrandt, featuring his conception of Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene. The first part of John 20 tells the story. Mary discovers the stone rolled away from the tomb and immediately tells the disciples. Peter and John enter the tomb to find it empty, then go back home, dumbfounded. Mary hangs back and looks into the tomb for herself, seeing two angels who ask why she is crying. After she responds she sees Jesus, but doesn’t recognize him. He too asks why she is crying, but she still doesn’t recognize him — not until he speaks her name, at which point her recognition is instant.

HoMY45: Low in the Grave He Lay

Easter Sunday brings a certain selection of must-sing hymns, one of which offers quiet verses with a chorus that attempts to rise in a triumphant crescendo. This week’s entry in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth is “Low in the Grave He Lay,” also known as “He Arose” or “Up from the Grave He Arose,” words and music by Robert Lowry (1826-1899). I recall this one from my youth as well, the boisterous chorus sent forth from the voices of the congregation who felt that Easter Sunday deserved some extra gusto. I always wondered if they were intentionally a little extra low-key on the verses so that the chorus would sound even louder. This hymn is a bit unusual in that the verses are so short compared to the refrain. The hymn always came out of hiding for Easter Sunday and saw very little action the rest of the year, such that it becomes an Easter tradition, like the sunrise service and hot cross buns. There are a few such hymns, but I’m not sure that any of them says “Easter Sunday” quite so clearly as this one.

Holy Thursday

The image of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is a profoundly powerful one. In introducing his account of the act, John says, “He now showed them the full extent of his love.” Today’s post is strictly visual… depictions of the footwashing in art.

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What say you?

Holy Week Ahead

grapes-wine.jpg I’ve never done much Lent blogging, though I tend to get a bit more seasonally contemplative in the week leading up to Easter. I should be blogging Lent more thematically, but for a variety of reasons, this was not the year to start that tradition — although quite a number of folks asked me about it after my Advent project. Perhaps next year. In the meantime, I’ve decided to give you the preview collection of what I’ve composed for the week, which I tend to review every year.

He Walked: A Christmas Song for All Year

Footprints in Sand Now that we’ve wrapped up our brief look at John’s Prologue as an introduction to the themes of Advent and Christmas, I wanted to dwell a bit more on the canticle I used for the compline in the fourth week of Advent, which was unfortunately too short this year. I carefully selected a song by Mike Koop of St. Benedict’s Table fame. John’s prologue is a hymn for Christmas and all year long, and if you wanted to know what an updated song for Christmas and all year long would look like if you wrote it with your head filled with gospel images while staring at the prologue to John (1:1-18), I think I have the answer. It would need to be something written as an epiphany, like John’s gospel — portraying Jesus’ entry into, accomplishment of his task, and exit from the temporal scene with the transcendence of an Eternal God stepping in and out of time at will. It would need to reflect the fullness of both his Godhood and his humanity, in the same breath wherever possible.