deepening reflection with Luke 24:13-35

 During this Easter reflection series, we have already encountered the powerful scripture of the disciples’ encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus. And we had a wonderful reflection on that scripture from Fr. Michael Graham, SJ.

Today for reflection we return to that same scripture, or at least the circumstances surrounding it.

Some suggestions for prayerful reflection today:

  • Briefly offer a prayer for what it is you really desire this Easter season.
  • After reading the scripture on the appearance at Emmaus, allow yourself to remember and imagine the scene as you have experienced it before. Wonder again at the conversation the disciples have with the ‘stranger’ on the road. Recall their invitation to the ‘stranger’ to stay and have a meal with them and the conversations they had about the recent events in Jerusalem. Bring back to mind the feelings of the disciples as they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Hopefully this scripture and your memory of it are familiar.
  • Now, reflecting on the painting here, “Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus” by Diego Velázquez, spend some time prayerfully experiencing this meal at Emmaus, but from the perspective of a young woman present and eavesdropping on the conversation between Jesus and the disciples. Imagine, as depicted in the painting, how she has waited on this group of travelers, providing food and drink. Consider how she may view this group of men – maybe she is skeptical of the stories they tell about Jerusalem or perhaps she remembers her own knowledge of the Christ, who some called the Messiah, and his reputation among the people and the authorities. Does she experience these men as friendly or oblivious to her or demanding or kind?
  • Perhaps in your imagination you even consider what struggles the kitchen maid has had in her own life. Is she poor? Has she been an outsider? What is her experience like as a woman in that culture? Does she have elements in her own life and relationships in need of healing?
  • Coming to the very moment that Jesus is revealed to the disciples in the breaking of the bread (a blurry image in the background of the painting), allow yourself to experience the moment from the kitchen maid, not experiencing with her eyes but by listening to the voices. Examine her face and witness her expression. Is she shocked? Consoled? Afraid? Curious? How does she take this revelation that Jesus, the one who was just crucified and died, is now at her table, eating her bread and drinking the wine she served. How do you imagine she would react in this moment frozen in art?
  • Spend some time talking to God about what you observed and what you experienced. Tell God about your own reaction to the scene.
  • Ask God again for what you desire this Easter season and await the response. Offer gratitude.

This is one way to approach what we call Ignatian imaginative contemplation. Here we use an image of a familiar scripture scene, we use our senses to imagine the experience, we notice what takes place and our reactions to it, and we speak with God about it, as one friend speaks to another.

If you need help entering this scene or want to go deeper, take a few minutes to read this extraordinary poem by Denise Levertov about this specific painting.