After the solemn Easter celebrations in the city of Jerusalem, on 10th April – Easter Monday – the liturgy of the day moved to Emmaus Al-Qubeibeh: here, the Franciscans of the Custody, led by the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, remembered the evangelical episode known as “the disciples of Emmaus”.
Tradition has identified them as Cleophas and Simeon, two disciples walking to a village called Emmaus: sad and disappointed by the events of the crucifixion and the death of their Master, on their way they meet Jesus, but fail to recognize him. He explains the Scriptures to them and then they recognize him in the gesture of breaking bread. Today, a very large number of faithful and parishioners of St Saviour in Jerusalem and other surrounding places followed in their steps and came to contemplate this passage of the Gospel where it is commemorated.
The Franciscan shrine of the Basilica of the Manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ today stands in Al-Qubeibeh. There are actually at least three places which claim to be the exact position of this village. Al-Qubeibeh is the most recent site which has been recognized as “Emmaus”, as it is coherent with the coordinates provided by the Gospel according to Luke (24, 13-35), which specifies the name and the distance from Jerusalem (60 stadia, the unit of measurement of length for the Romans, which correspond to about 11 kms). In the 14th century, the Franciscans settled here, also encouraged by the persistence of popular tradition and the particular topographical situation of the village, standing on one of the roads that went up to Jerusalem.
Today’s festivity was divided into two parts: the Eucharistic celebration in the morning and the vesper and adoration after lunch.
The Father Custos fr. Francesco Patton presided the mass, with the homily given by fr. Amjad Sabbara, parish priest of the community of St Saviour in Jerusalem. At the end of the celebration, as according to tradition, small loaves of bread were blessed and then offered to all those present, a sign which refers to the passage in the Gospel and recalls the presence of Jesus.
“Today we are here in Emmaus to ask the Lord for the grace to be able to listen to the scriptures and recognize the Lord who walks with us, which is perhaps the most difficult thing,” fr. Francesco Patton emphasized at the end of the celebration,” because we too, like the disciples of Emmaus, very often think that he is distant or dead. But in actual fact when we are able to listen authentically to his word, then we recognize that he is beside us, helping us to understand as well the meaning of certain things that happen to us and to make a Pascal reading of our life.”
Fr. Arturo Vasaturo, local superior of the Franciscan community of Al-Qubeibeh, wanted to warmly greet all those present, recalling how Emmaus is a special place, where Cleophas and Simeon experienced a God who was truly close and real. Fr. Vasaturo also wanted to thank the Missionary sisters of the Evangelization, who looked after welcoming the numerous faithful and the friends of the local Muslim community, with whom the Franciscans live together in friendship and mutual respect.
The Custos of the Holy Land then met and exchanged greetings with the mayor of Emmaus and other local civic authorities, as well as with the heads of the police force of the Palestinian Authority. As usual for Easter Monday in Emmaus, the friars shared lunch with the faithful in the parish rooms.
Finally, the celebration of sung vespers, in the early afternoon, brought the day of festivities, which had taken place in an atmosphere of great conviviality and joy, to an end.