The last time I was considering the Gospel reading from Luke 24:36f, the story of Luke and Cleopas meeting Christ on the road to Emmaeus. This reading is the sixth in a series of eleven that are read each Sunday morning at Resurrection Matins in the Orthodox Church. These readings are called eothina, and each have two hymns that attend them: an exapostilarion and a doxasticon. These hymns summarize, to some degree, the lesson that was read.
Here is the doxasticon sung after the refrain “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit” after Psalms 148-150 and their attendant hymns. Again, I use Fr. Nassar’s translation which I’ve edited to a contemporary idiom:
Since You are the true peace of God to man, O Christ, You gave Your peace to Your Disciples after Your Resurrection. You showed them frightened when they thought that they were beholding a spirit. But you removed the anxiety of their souls when You showed them Your hands and feet; and yet they were in doubt. But when You took food with them, reminding them of Your preaching, You opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And You made with them the eternal covenant, blessed them and rose, ascending to Heaven. Therefore, with them we worship You, O Lord: Glory to You!
This praise is in the form of a prayer, recounting the basic events of this Gospel: the Lord gave His peace, removed their anxiety by showing His scars, ate food, taught them, made a covenant, blessed them and ascended. Because of these gracious actions, we know the Lord and give Him glory.
That’s all that can be done.
I’ll confess a slight disappointment: both of these hymns conflate the events of the Lord’s eating with His disciples and teaching them found in this Gospel. In the reading, there are two events. In the hymns, they are somewhat combined. I find the story of the meeting with Luke and Cleopas to be one of the most poetic, and wish the hymnographers had dealt with that part of the story specifically. Oh well…
These hymns of the Orthodox liturgy are didactic in nature; their purpose is to summarize and strengthen our understanding of the Scriptures. But they also place us “with them.” Because of our faith and through our common worship, we, too, glorify the Risen Lord. Through their witness in the Gospels we, too, behold “His hands and feet.” This collapsing of space and time into a single Presence and Now is probably THE key feature of Orthodox liturgical worship. It is its raison d’etre, its very nature and its absolute goal. The hymns of the Church narrate this intention. Rather like an emcee or a tour guide, the Church is given a single voice in these hymns, guiding the Faithful through the common prayer and praise to the place of arrival: glory.
A life that gives glory and even seeks it (Rom. 2:7) is one of gratitude and humility, receptivity and docility – penetrable by the Holy Spirit.
Next: Church Brakes