Christ’s Paschal Eucharist
Building on a few words in St Mark (16:12f), St Luke tells how the resurrected Christ appeared to two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. Finding them confused after the crucifixion and reports that he was alive, Christ expounded things in the Scriptures concerning himself, and then, sitting at a table, performed actions over bread which he gave to them. They realised who he was, whereupon he vanished (Luke 24:13-31).
We are expected to take what occurred around the table as a Eucharist. Christ’s actions (‘he took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them’, 24:30) are precisely those he had performed three nights earlier at the Supper (e.g. Matt 26:26, although in accounts of the Supper ‘gave thanks’ often occurs in place of ‘blessed it’); the events occurred on the first day of the week (Luke 24:1, 13), the day of Eucharistic worship in the Church from the earliest times (Acts 20:7); and the sequence of scriptural exposition followed by the breaking of bread followed by Christ remains that of Eucharistic liturgy, in which verbum precedes sacramentum.
‘No-one should doubt that his being recognised in the breaking of bread is the Sacrament, which brings us together in recognising him.’ (Augustine) It was through this Eucharist celebrated by Christ that the disciples’ ‘eyes were opened and they knew him’ (Luke 24:31); ‘he was known to them in the breaking of bread’ (24:35). As usual with biblical knowing, the knowledge one has of someone else is not of an intellectual kind, and perhaps here neither does it entirely mean recognition, but a form of personal relationship based on experience, in this case of the One who is risen. And the two disciples came to this not through the words they exchanged with Christ as they walked beside him, but the Eucharistic breaking of bread. In other words, no less than on that first day, such knowledge remains available in the Paschal Liturgy of the Church.