1 Pt 1:17-21
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice and proclaimed . . . . “
Is this the same man who denied Jesus three times? Is this the same man whose incomprehension provoked Jesus to say, “Get behind me satan?” Peter, who swore he did not know this Jesus of Nazareth, is now proclaiming that He is risen from the dead. Peter, whose nerve failed him at the first hint of threat, is now professing Jesus as the one of whom David spoke. Fearful of being known as one of His disciples while huddled around a fire, Peter is now preaching what, to many ears, was blasphemy. He was telling all who could hear that Jesus had risen from the dead. Talk about a makeover! What did Peter look like as he proclaimed these words about Jesus’ mighty deeds and told of Jesus' wonders and signs? How did his voice sound? What gestures did he make?
It is likely he did not resemble the cowering man in the high priest’s courtyard who said, “I do not know Him.” Something fundamental had changed. The change was not subtle. Peter was taking an enormous risk when he spoke. Of course this was after Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit it is obvious that Peter now understood that which he had failed to comprehend earlier.
Luke’s narrative of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, with its expertly set scene, is ripe for contemplation. One can sense the despondency of the two men. Their weariness is palpable. There are hints of disbelief and fear as they journey toward Emmaus. Are they walking away from Jerusalem because their hopes have been destroyed? Are they retreating because Jesus was not the Messiah of their dreams? What was the subject about which they were “conversing and debating?” Conversing is a neutral word but debating suggests disagreement and attempts by each to change the other’s mind. Who was winning?
They stopped talking when Jesus appeared. They were shocked that their unrecognized companion was not aware of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem. Jesus’ impatience with them is palpable. It is approximately seven and one-half miles, or twelve and one-half kilometers, from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets and explained “what referred to him in all the Scriptures." The conversation must have been a long one.
Like the entire Jewish nation the two disciples had had hopes for the Messiah. Many of these hopes were attached to the politics of the day and driven by Israel's desire to be free of the yoke of Roman domination. They had desires for the one of whom David spoke to be a military leader, a super-politician, and a social reformer all at once. Today we expect the one of whom David spoke to have, in addition the skills of a five-star general, unifying politician, and presto-chango social justice warrior, a sufficiently relaxed moral compass that would enable him endorse anything that feels good no matter the fundamental wrongness of the act. Jesus fulfilled none of Israel's expectations. Jesus will fulfill none of those expectations even today. Given that he seemed to be apolitical it is ironic how often Jesus’ message is politicized and twisted to promote a particular agenda on both the left and the right as in, "You cannot call yourself a Christian if you do not . . . . . . (fill in blank with pet agenda)." The only thing one can say about this statement is that it is breathtakingly manipulative. It is on par with the recent suggestion, "You can't be a democratic candidate if you don't support abortion."
Jesus was not the Messiah Israel wanted. He was the Messiah Israel needed. Jesus is not the Christ we want Him to be. He is not the Messiah we try to force Him to be in our attempts to remake God in our own image. He is the Christ we need.
Jesus’ two companions on the road to Emmaus were deeply consoled after the fact. “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” They immediately began the long walk back to Jerusalem to share the news. Peter’s heart was aflame with ardor as he interpreted scripture and shared the news with his listeners.
When we pray we are continually on the road to Emmaus. In prayer we are continually forced to recognize the One who joins us along the way. We are continually meeting this stranger who we may not recognize at first. We encounter Him every time we partake of the Eucharistic Feast.
Listen carefully to the words you will hear as the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord are elevated above the altar just before communion. Let them sink in.
"Behold the Lamb of God,
Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those who are called
to the supper of the Lamb."
And attend to the response you will give.
"Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed."
and my soul shall be healed."
Last Tuesday Fr. Peter knocked on my door. Short version of story: Can you go to Stična for the night at 5 PM to help with the first day of a retreat?" I could. The demands of the retreat were such that there was plenty of time to shoot. Took one lens along, a 25 mm f/1.4. The 25 mm is the equivalent of 50 mm on an Olympus DSLR. It is a good length as it captures more or less the field of vision we see. The f/1.4 means that it can capture light where there is none. The good news is that I just got an e-mail from Peter asking if I can go back tomorrow night until Tuesday should the other priest chooses to remain in LJ. Absolutely. I only took one lens because I came back by train with an already heavy backpack that made the mile walk back to the house from the station seem a lot longer.
The monastery is Cistercian but is O. Cist. rather than OCSO aka Trappist. The Cistercian Order was founded in the waning years of the 11th century. It split into two branches about five hundred years later. This particular monastery, founded within thirty years of the the order's foundation, is one of the most important sites of religious visits and pilgrimages in Slovenia. It is the home of 14th century illuminated manuscripts that I didn't get a chance to see during the twenty-four hours I was there. That may change. Some of the exterior walls, particularly of the monastic church are original. The interiors are mostly not. The church was redone in baroque style during the baroque. (Hint for Americans traveling in Europe. Never describe something in the U.S. as "really old" because, unless you are speaking of the sequoias, it isn't. Being enclosed by walls constructed in the 12th century is old.) I'm putting up a lot of the shots. Enjoy.
The Abbey Church tower as seen from inside the visitor garth.
The view from another gate. The shrine in the background holds a pietà.
The visitor garth. The church is toward the background and to the right.
A sundial on a cloudy day. Not too handy. Don't know the meaning of the 20th century date. The monastery, along with other contemplative religious houses, was suppressed by one of the emperor's for a bit more than a century. It was eventually reestablished.
Entrance to the cloister.
As soon as I saw this bell sitting in the ground I wondered where the crack was. Is about the same size as the liberty bell. The wooden housing, meant to go over the metal, was off to the side in very bad condition.
Beautiful detail of one of the interior doors.
A "modern" stained glass window added in 1907.
The cloister. The color made me close to speechless (a rarity).
A close-up. The color was either rubbed on or perhaps painted on and rubbed off. Thus the texture is highlighted. The stone is not marble. The camera did a good job of capturing the color exactly.
The ceiling is painted in between the arches.
The Abbey Church serves as both the monastic church and a long-established parish church. Unlike the OCSO some of the O. Cist. monasteries have external ministry rather than being cloistered contemplative. The O. Cist. has a high school in Dallas, TX. The nave is 63 meters long.
The monks' choir stalls and close-up of the altar.
Pulpit. Have never seen a crucifix held out by a sculpted arm before. The decor on the pulpit almost shouts Baroque.
The entrance, choir loft and organ.
A ceiling detail in the church. A more wide-angle lens would have been handy here. Interesting chandelier. Hope to see it lighted if I go back tomorrow.
View of one of the enclosure gardens from my room. The hills surrounding the area remind me of Northeastern and Central PA.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD