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Christ is risen!

“Now I recognize you!” He was an old friend from High School, and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the face UNTIL he made that facial expression he use to make at lunchtime that made us fall on the floor laughing!

I love moments like that when the “AHA” moment comes and clarity arrives! It is such a reassuring feeling that maybe I haven’t really lost my mind! In fact, the older I get, the more challenging my memory becomes!

Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 24:12-35. We won’t read the whole passage, but please note this section:

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Wouldn’t you have loved to have a recording of this discussion? By the way, we actually do. It’s the consistent teachings of the Church for centuries that enshrined for us the Lord interpreting the Holy Scriptures to His disciples. They taught us what He taught them!

Notice; these two disciples of Jesus are “blinded” by the cares of their lives. Here they are, walking along and the Lord Himself joins their company and the scripture declares that “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” Why? Well, because the wonderful work that was done for these men would have been short-circuited by any other event! And the Lord wanted to make a very important point about how to truly recognize Him for all of us! He was known to them in the breaking of the bread!

By the way, today is also the name day for our parish as we celebrate the holy martyrs Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene. These holy friends contested for the Lord in 1463 AD, 10 years after the fall of Constantinople. The Ottomans came to the island of Lesvos and demanded the village of Mitilene convert to Islam or die. St. Raphael was the local monastic priest and Nicholas was his deacon. As they tortured St. Raphael, they tied Nicholas to a tree to force him to witness the torture of his spiritual father. St. Raphael succumbed to his wounds and St. Nicholas died of a heart attack as he watched the horror of evil. St. Irene was the 12-year-old daughter of the mayor of the city and the whole village was made to witness these barbarians torture St. Irene by placing her in a clay pot over a fire! The whole village was told they could spare their lives if they converted to Islam, but no one abandoned Christ. They knew Christ and refused to abandon Him. The whole village was slaughtered.

Jesus will be known to us today during this Bright Week as we have eyes to see Him in the Breaking of the Bread of the Holy Eucharist. It is precisely this lesson the Lord wished to reveal and preserve for us in this powerful lesson during this wonderful week. We will know Him in the faces of those who break bread with us. We will know Him in the powerful liturgies where our life comes into focus and we are “awake” to His presence among us in the Eucharistic meal. We will know Him in our world as we “see” His face in the spiritually hungry souls all around us as they long to see Him and recognize Him in us!

P.S. Having contended on Lesvos for the sake of Christ God, you have sanctified the island since the discovery of your sacred relics, O blessed ones; wherefore we honor you, O God-bearing Raphael, together with Nicholas and virgin Irene, as our divine protectors, and intercessors with the Lord.

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