Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

On the Road Again

It's that time of year again. Eastertide, when the usual first reading from the Old Testament is replaced by a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, and suddenly the second reading from an epistle always seems to be talking about current events. This Sunday it was also time once again to read about the road to Emmaus.

Is it just me, or are these disciples just darned likable? They're the Joe Schmo guys, not part of the inner circle of Jesus' best friends, and for some reason they succumb to the press of business and leave Jerusalem, just as things seem to be getting really interesting. But Jesus knows them and comes to them. Not for some piddly moment or two, either. He stays and talks with them along the whole road to Emmaus.

This is what occurred to me today -- this is exactly how the whole interaction between Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition is supposed to work. The disciples know their scriptures, sure. They've heard Jesus deliver the Good News, live and in person. Yet they do not understand the Word of God until Jesus explains it to them. He teaches them with authority and lays out the hidden connections between old Covenant and new, between what the prophets wrote and what they had seen with their own eyes. That is the Tradition they carry by word of mouth to the apostles and the other disciples. That is the Tradition, the Magisterium in fact, that Cyril of Jerusalem taught his catechumen classes -- he had it from somebody who had it from several somebodies who had it from Christ Himself. And that is the Tradition that my church taught us today. (Ooh, apostolic succession and the deposit of faith all in one....)

The catechumens who joined the Catholic Church at Easter are still going to class, btw. This is not a sign that they are not full members. Just as the apostles and disciples did, they are spending the forty days of Eastertide learning what the heck it all means, sticking together and looking to their Lord. Back in Cyril's day, this mystagogy was absolutely essential. Like the apostles, catechumens heard the scriptures and Gospel and had a certain amount of it explained. But though they knew more or less about what baptism meant, Communion and Confirmation came as a big surprise. Like the apostles, they would only afterward realize fully what had just happened to them.

This is also part of the point of Emmaus. The scriptures and Gospel are known to the disciples; His explanation of them makes the disciples' hearts burn. But they do not recognize God in His Gospel or His teachings, just as they do not recognize Him when they see His long-known face. They only recognize Him in the breaking of the bread -- in the new-made New Covenant -- in a Sacrament of His infant Church.

This is not meant to denigrate scripture or tradition, I think, but rather to show us that God really was coming to everyone where they were. Jesus was a rabbi, and Jesus liked scripture and interpretation and so did his disciples. But Jesus is showing the disciples that the moment of recognition of God doesn't have to come through scholarship and storytelling. God is with us in our bodies as well as our brains.

Here's a paper on "The Temple Roots of the Liturgy" from a page on Jewish Roots of Early Christian Mysticism. It's pretty interesting, but some of the
ideas about Wisdom and shewbread if true. (And that's a big if.) But the rest seems like a very good start for further investigation. A lot of this stuff probably seemed so obvious back in the day that there was no need to teach it....

UPDATE: Dappled Things was thinking about the same thing, but a great deal more coherently. I guess there really are idea particles floating about, just like Terry Pratchett says.... ;)

Also, Jimmy Akin had a post with a bit of info on the oral tradition of rabbinical scripture interpretation. There's more in the comments.


  • At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    You certainly bloged a lot while I wasn't looking. YOu know how much I love this particular Biblical incident. I'm pondering. . .


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