The Road to Emmaus

I had this thought recently: isn’t the Emmaus story (Luke 24) emblematic of the mystical journey?

Pilgrims are walking along, and encounter Christ, and do not even realize it. They recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread. He vanishes and they are left, changed forever, with the memory of his words burning in their heart.

Sounds to me like purgation, illumination, union…

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Barb


    Speaking of the purgative, illuminative, unitive paths to theosis: Some time last year I posted on my little-known blog a rather long description of a Biblical pattern that easily and naturally fits this same paradigm: the Tabernacle of Moses as described in summary form in the book of Hebrews, and in detail in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Very briefly, the outer court (with the brass laver and the altar of sacrifice) represents the purgative way, washing away our sins by the blood of Jesus. The Holy Place with the table of showbread, the Menorah or lampstand, and the altar of incense, represents the illuminative way with the light or insight of the Spirit, the nourishment of spiritual bread, and the incense of intercession or spiritual prayer and worship. The Holy of Holies with the ark of the covenant and the Mercy Seat represents the unitive way, communion with God in the spiritual depths. There are lots of details to enjoy in this typological treatment, but that’s enough for tonight. My point is simply that the three steps (or ‘nests’ as Ken Wilber might call them) are not merely arbitrary or traditionally conditioned concepts, but solidly based in deep Biblical roots.

    Peace in Jesus,

  • Carl McColman

    Have you read Gregory of Nyssa’s The Life of Moses? It explores this very issue.