Pope Gregory I on the road to Emmaus


Once again, from the 1960 Matins for today (Easter Monday); once again, my own translation.  There is some Latin wordplay in the second paragraph that doesn’t really work in English – but then, it doesn’t really work in Latin, either.

Dearest brethren, you have just heard that the Lord appeared to two disciples walking down a road, not quite believing in him but yet speaking of him.  But he did not show them a face that they would recognize.  So outwardly the Lord did to their bodily eyes what he was doing with them inwardly, in the eyes of their hearts.  For between themselves, inwardly they loved him, and they doubted: and the Lord outwardly came and was present to them, and did not show who he was.  So he showed his presence to those who were speaking of him: but he hid his recognizable face from those were doubting about him.

Indeed, he shared words with them, he rebuked the hardness of their understanding, he opened to them the mysteries of sacred Scripture which were about himself: and even still, since in their hearts he was yet a stranger to their faith, he feigned having farther to go.  By “feigned” [fingere] we mean “gathered” [componere]: just as we call a gatherer [compositor] of clay a potter [figulus].  For the simple Truth does nothing through duplicity: but he showed himself to them in the body in the same such way as he was with them in the mind.  They were to be tested as to whether, even if they did not yet love him as God, they could at least love him as a stranger.

But since charity could not be foreign to those with whom the Truth was walking, they invite him to their hospitality as a stranger.  And why do we say “they invite him”, when that Scripture says “they prevailed upon him”?  Evidently we should gather from this example that we should not only invite strangers to our hospitality, but even drag them!  So they set the table, they bring him bread and food: and they recognize God in the breaking of the bread, whom they did not recognize in the explanation of sacred Scripture.  So they were not enlightened by hearing the precepts of God, but they were enlightened by the doing of them: for it is written, “Hearers of the law will not be righteous before God, but doers of the law will be justified.”  So whoever wants to understand the things he hears, let him hasten to carry out in deeds what he has already been able to hear.  You see?  The Lord is not recognized while he speaks; he does permit himself to be recognized when he is fed.


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