Rorate Caeli

An Easter Sermon by Father Konrad zu Loewnstein

Father Konrad zu Loewenstein
Easter 2020 

 Was not our heart burning...’

Our Blessed Lord appears to-day to two of His disciples: Cleophas and another, perhaps his wife Maria who had stood at the foot of the Cross. When they looked back at the encounter later, what motives would they not have found for amazement and the deepest reverence? -their beloved Master Who had suffered and died in a manner so atrocious and cruel, was in truth the Messiah of the Ancient Covenant, the Glory of the Chosen People, indeed God Himself; He had risen from the dead and appeared before them in person in the form of an unknown travelling companion; He had come to their house, celebrated the Holy Eucharist for them, then vanished from their sight. 

‘Was not our heart burning within us?’ they ask each other afterwards. It was right that these chaste and pure disciples with their sincere and upright Faith in God should rejoice, says St. Lorenzo Giustiniani, that the Only Begotten Son of God should treat with them with such affection and familiarity. ‘It was right that in that ecstasy they were inebriated by fervour, illuminated with wisdom, enflamed with love at the contemplation of such tenderness and humanity... hearing the divine waves of His Wisdom... They would have felt in their soul marvellous joys never before experienced, in those supreme instants when the eternal Word of the Father spoke to them with the ineffable sweetness of His superhuman love. His words would have irradiated from Him like showers of spiritual light, His voice come forth like rivers of celestial nectar, ineffably inebriating their hearts, as though pervaded with uncontainable joy... while their mind was suspended in contemplation both at the one who spoke and at the ineffable discourses which He uttered. Certainly they would have realised that in the Lord Jesus there was something divine, but their eyes were still too closed to be able to recognise Him. They tasted the most sweet savour of His Wisdom and in this joy their heart burned in the conflagration of divine love...’

The Lord explained to them, as He will later explain to the Eleven in Jerusalem, how the Law, the Prophets, and indeed the whole of the Old Testament spoke of Him; and how, more precisely, He had had to suffer in order to enter into His glory. And then ‘it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread and blessed and brake and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened: and they knew him. And he vanished from their sight.’ Later they were to recount how they recognised him in the breaking of the bread ‘Fractio panis’, a term used of the Blessed Eucharist in the Early Church.

 ‘How foolish and slow of heart...’

Various Fathers maintain that the Disciples could not recognise Him because they doubted. Like the Disciples on the road to Emmaus we too are on the way, that is on the way to Heaven; like them we too are accompanied by the Lord, Who, if we are in the state of grace, is also in our very souls in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. But why then do we not recognise Him either, otherwise we would certainly ask His help when we needed it, share our joys with Him, offer to Him our sufferings, give ourselves completely to Him, as He has given Himself completely to us? And when He enters into our house, as he entered into the house of the disciples of Emmaus, into the house of our soul in Holy Communion, under our roof, why do we not recognise Him there  either, uniting ourselves to Him more closely, thanking Him for coming, for giving Himself to us, for suffering, dying, and rising from the dead for us? Are we too ‘so foolish and so slow of heart to believe’?
‘Stay with us...’

After talking to them on the road He had ‘made as though to go further.’ He was a stranger to them, says san Lorenzo, and this is why he appeared as a traveller, a pilgrim, and why it was only fitting that he should leave them. But at the same time, as when he had made as though to pass the disciple on the lake, He was inviting them silently to call Him to themselves: into their boat, into their house, their heart.  

‘Stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is already far spent.’ Stay with us on our way to Heaven: stay with us, do not leave us like the sun sinking so fast over the Holy Land, like the species of Holy Communion dissolving within us and leaving us without Thee; stay with us in the house of our soul in Holy Communion: do not vanish from our house, do not vanish from our sight, from our heart; stay with us when the light of all our worldly hopes grows dim and extinguishes, when the shadows fall upon this world of ours and deepen; stay with us when we grow old and it becomes evening, O Lord and God, when the day declines and the sun of this world sinks and sets and disappears: usque ad senectutem et senium, Deus, ne derelinquas me! Stay with us all through our earthly journey and pilgrimage, Who art our only hope in time and in Eternity, until a light transfigured and more glorious rises in a more glorious world than this: the light that Thou Thyself art, O Light of Christ, when at last we shall see Thee face to face, Whom we have recognised here below in the breaking of the bread.