Newman on Faith and Sight on the road to Emmaus

Newman on Faith and Sight on the road to Emmaus

And He Disappeared out of Their Sight

ca. 1898 Henry Ossawa Tanner,  Smithsonian American Art Collection

Blessed John Henry Cardinal , from Parochial and Plain Sermons, VI.10 “The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church
Now observe what was the nature of His presence in the Church after His Resurrection. It was this, that He came and went as He pleased; that material substances, such as the fastened doors, were no impediments to His coming; and that when He was present His disciples did not, as a matter of course, know Him. St. Mark says He appeared to the two disciples who were going into the country, to Emmaus, “in another form.” St. Luke, who gives the account more at length, says, that while He talked with them their heart burned within them. And it is worth remarking, that the two disciples do not seem to have been conscious of this at the time, but on looking back, they recollected that as having been, which did not strike them while it was

. . .  their hearts seem to have been holden (if we may use the expression) as well as their eyes. They were receiving impressions, but could not realize to themselves that they were receiving them; afterwards, however, they became aware of what had been. Let us observe, too, when it was that their eyes were opened; here we are suddenly introduced to the highest and most solemn Ordinance of the Gospel, for it was when He consecrated and brake the Bread that their eyes were opened. There is evidently a stress laid on this, for presently St. Luke sums up his account of the gracious occurrence with an allusion to it in particular; “They told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread.” 

For so it was ordained, that Christ should not be both seen and known at once; first He was seen, then He was known. Only by faith is He known to be present; He is not recognized by sight. When He opened His disciples’ eyes, He at once vanished. He removed His visible presence, and left but a memorial of Himself. He vanished from sight that He might be present in a sacrament; and in order to connect His visible presence with His presence invisible, He for one instant manifested Himself to their open eyes; manifested Himself, if I may so speak, while He passed from His hiding-place of sight without knowledge, to that of knowledge without sight.
Or again: consider the account of His appearing to St. Mary Magdalene. While she stood at the sepulcher weeping He appeared, but she knew Him not. When He revealed Himself, He did not, indeed, at once vanish away, but He would not let her touch Him; as if, in another way, to show that His presence in His new kingdom was not to be one of sense. The two disciples were not allowed to see Him after recognizing Him, St. Mary Magdalene was not allowed to touch Him. But afterward, St. Thomas was allowed both to see and touch; he had the full evidence of sense: but observe what our Lord says to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Faith is better than sight or touch.
. . .  We see Him not; but we are to believe that we possess Him,—that we have been brought under the virtue of His healing hand, of His life-giving breath, of the manna flowing from His lips, and of the blood issuing from His side. And hereafter, on looking back, we shall be conscious that we have been thus favored. Such is the Day of the Lord in which we find ourselves, as if in fulfillment of the words of the prophet, “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee. And it shall come to pass in that Day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” [Zech. xiv. 5-7.] 
Nay, even before the end comes, Christians, on looking back on years past, will feel, at least in a degree, that Christ has been with them, though they knew it not, only believed it, at the time. They will even recollect then the burning of their hearts. 
 Nay, though they seemed not even to believe any thing at the time, yet afterward, if they have come to Him in sincerity, they will experience a sort of heavenly fragrance and savour of immortality, when they least expect it, rising upon their minds, as if in token that God has been with them, and investing all that has taken place, which before seemed to them but earthly, with beams of glory. . . .
May He enable us to make full trial of His bounty, and to obtain a full measure of blessing. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her and that right early … Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” [Ps. xlvi. 4, 5, 10, 11.]


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