The Road of Discipleship

Road to Emmaus Icon

Image: Sister Marie-Paul/The Printery House

Description via The Printery House.

The vivid story of two disciple’s encounter with the Resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus is found in chapter 24 of Luke’s Gospel. The scene has often been rendered in western European art. The painting, “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio is particularly famous. However, icons of this very familiar story are rare. The image we have reproduced for you here is an original by Sister Marie-Paul and is especially unusual in that one of the disciples is female. There actually is excellent scriptural and traditional evidence for identifying the unnamed disciple as a woman. The man is named as Clopas or Cleopas (Luke 24:18). Elsewhere, a woman named Mary (often called “the other Mary” to distinguish her from Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene) is named as the wife of Clopas (John 19:25). Still elsewhere, this Mary is identified as the mother of the Apostle James the Less and Joses (Mark 15:40). So the most likely companion for Clopas on the Road to Emmaus would be his wife Mary, who had been a witness to the Crucifixion and to the empty tomb (Mark 16:1).

I found this icon at our local Catholic bookstore, and I love it for two reasons. The story of the “Road to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35) has always seemed to me to be a prefiguring of the Mass. We meet Jesus on the road of our lives each Sunday or Holy Day, and we walk with him for awhile. He speaks to us through the Scriptures, and especially in his own words through the Gospel. And then he becomes known to us in the breaking of the Bread. The eyes of our faith are opened, and we believe that he is with us in the Blessed Sacrament.

The other reason I love this icon is that the unnamed disciple is female. This weekend, my daughter will take the next step on her own road of discipleship as she receives the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time. This icon is a reminder to her, and to every other woman who follows Jesus on the road, that she is as much a part of the Body of Christ, as the men who walk alongside her.

For “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

One thought on “The Road of Discipleship

  1. I like this for the same reasons you listed. Far too often our faith passes over the significance women have played. Sure, Mary is emphasized, but that’s only one out of how many?


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