Emmaus in Christian Tradition

The Gospel of Luke, 24, 13-35

  And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about one hundred and sixty stadia. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass therein these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 

  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 

  And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

The Risen Jesus appears at Emmaus:

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 5 (written in 375-380 AD):

… But when the first day of the week dawned He arose from the dead, and fulfilled those things which before His passion He foretold to us, saying: “The Son of man must continue in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”  And when He was risen from the dead, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, then to Cleophas in the way, and after that to us His disciples, who had fled away for fear of the Jews, but privately were very inquisitive about Him. But these things are also written in the Gospel.  

St. Jerome, To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem (written ca. 398 AD)

...And, simple ones, be not deceived by the resurrection of our Lord, because He showed His side and His hands, stood on the shore, went for a walk with Cleophas, and said that He had flesh and bones. That body, because it was not born of the seed of man and the pleasure of the flesh, has its peculiar prerogatives. He ate and drank after His resurrection, and appeared in clothing, and allowed Himself to be touched, that He might make His doubting Apostles believe in His resurrection. But still He does not fail to manifest the nature of an aerial and spiritual body. For He enters when the doors are shut, and in the breaking of bread vanishes out of sight. Does it follow then that after our resurrection we shall eat and drink, and perform the offices of nature? If so, what becomes of the promise, ‘The mortal must put on immortality.’” (1 Corinthians 15:53) … As He showed them real hands and a real side, so He really ate with His disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them. And as for His suddenly vanishing out of their sight, that is the power of God, not of a shadowy phantom…And how was it, you will say, that they did not recognize Him on the road if He had the same body which He had before? Let me recall what Scripture says: “Their eyes were holden, that they might not know Him.” And again, “Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.” Was He one person when He was not known, and another when He was known? He was surely one and the same. Whether, therefore, they knew Him, or not, depended on their sight; it did not depend upon Him Who was seen; and yet it did depend on Him in this sense, that He held their eyes that they might not know Him. Lastly, that you may see that the mistake which held them was not to be attributed to the Lord’s body, but to the fact that their eyes were closed, we are told: “Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.”

 Blessed Guerric of Igny, Cistercian abbot, The third sermon for the Advent, 3 (written in the first half of the 12th c.):

“But unto you that fear my name, he says, the Sun of righteousness shall arise (Malachi 4:2), and he who walks righteously will see with his eyes the King in His beauty (Isaiah 33:15-17).” Certainly, this has been said of the Beatitude to come, but to some extent, it is given to us too in the present life, through consolations, as the Resurrection of Christ clearly shows. Indeed, for forty days Holy Wisdom gave us ample evidence that she was “seeking high and low for souls worthy of her, and displaying to them along their paths her smiling face, courting them with all the solicitude of her providence.” (Wisdom 6:16-17). Jesus so willed to reveal himself as this Wisdom of which the Scripture speaks, and on that day to manifest physically what he reveals spiritually day after day; that is, to show us the smiling face on the roads of justice. That is why he went that day on the way to meet women returning from the tomb and, on the road once again, to show himself to the disciples on their way to Emmaus.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 645 (published in 1992)

   By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm. For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith. 

The companion of Cleophas on the way to Emmaus was his son Simon, the future bishop of Jerusalem:

Origen, Against Celsus, Book II, 62 (written in 248 AD)

And in the Gospel of Luke, as Simon and Cleopas were conversing over things that had happened, he went to join them, and walked with them. But their eyes were held so that they did not recognize him. And he said unto them, What are you speaking about on your way? Finally when their eyes were opened and they recognized him, the Scripture says in express terms that he vanished from their sight


Eusebius of Caesarea, Church history, Book III, ch. 11 (written ca. 324 AD):


 After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh …to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James.  They all with one consent pronounced Simon, the son of Cleophas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Savior. For Hegesippus records that Cleophas was a brother of Joseph.


St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, ch. 24 (written in the first half of the 5th c.):

   You must know that these two disciples belonged to the number of the seventy (apostles), and that Cleophas’ companion was Simon - not Peter or the one of Cana - but another Simon, of the seventy.

Another tradition considers St. Luke to be Cleophas' companion:

St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, Preface, 3 (late 6th c.)

 …It is the manner of Holy Scripture for the persons who are writing so to speak of themselves in it, as though they were speaking of others… hence Luke says, that two of them were walking by the way, Cleophas and another; which other indeed, while he was so carefully silent about him, he showed to have been no other than himself, as some assert. 

Orthodox prayer for travelers

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, the true and living way, Who deigned to travel with your foster-father Joseph and Your all-immaculate Virgin Mother into Egypt, and accompanied Luke and Cleophas to Emmaus: We humbly pray You, O all-holy Master, by Your grace to accompany us now.

At Emmaus, Jesus broke the bread at Cleophas' house:


St. Jerome, Letter 108 (written in 404 AD):


 Again resuming her journey, Paula came to Nicopolis, once called Emmaus, where the Lord became known in the breaking of bread; an action by which He dedicated the house of Cleophas as a church.

Cleophas who received Jesus at his home at Emmaus later died as a martyr: 


Ado, the archbishop of Vienne in Lotharingia, Martyrology (written in the 9th c. AD):


September 25, Nativity (Anniversary of Martyrdom) of Cleophas, one of the 70 disciples of Christ. The Lord appeared to him after his Resurrection while he was walking with another disciple towards the village of Emmaus, which is called Nicopolis nowadays. According to tradition, in the same town and in the same house, where Cleophas had received the Lord as a pilgrim at his table, he was killed by his compatriots for his confession of the One whom he had recognized at the breaking of the bread. There also he is buried in glorious memory.  (PL CXXIII, 193)

Armenian synaxarium, Sahmi 21 (October 30)

The holy Apostle Cleophas was a relative of Christ. He was the first to see the risen Lord, when Christ appeared to him and his friends on the way to Emmaus and walked with them, as Luke says. Cleophas was the first to share a meal with the Lord after His Resurrection, eating and drinking with Him. He also received the Holy Spirit and the grace of doing miracles and speaking in tongues. He preached over the country and converted many people to Christ. He died as a martyr.




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