Walk'n Pray - On the road with the Emmaus pilgrims

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It was not possible to experience the "real" Emmaus walk from Jerusalem this year. We have postponed it to next year, from 16 to 23 April to 2023

However, the spirit of the Emmaus Way can also be lived at home! 

With a meditation of Martin Hoegger, we therefore invite you to an original process that you can experience in pairs or in groups. A community can also use this proposal for a time of spiritual retreat. 

These are four stages that take up four aspects of the Emmaus pilgrimage story. 

  • Emmaus, a path 
  • Emmaus, a meeting
  • Emmaus, a word 
  • Emmaus, a meal 

These steps can also be lived as part of the "Walk and Pray" process during the Easter season. A mobile phone Application has been developed for this purpose, keep reading)


Introduction: hope in the imperfect tense

Discouraged, two disciples of Jesus return to their village of Emmaus. 

"We were hoping...", they say to the stranger who joins them on their way. It is tragic when we speak of hope in the past tense. The imperfect tense expresses well the despair, the path of mourning on which these two disciples are moving: " we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel”

This lack of hope is everywhere today.  

In Switzerland, the pastors of my generation hoped that Christianity could still develop. But my Reformed Church is shrinking, few young people are studying theology to become pastors... 

We hoped that our children, with the education they received from us, could pass on the torch of faith to their children, but how many of them persevere? 

In our own lives, we sometimes must face situations that are humanly hopeless: a cruel bereavement, an incurable illness, the end of a great friendship, a loss of a job, treachery from a friend, an addiction, a disastrous infidelity... 

And then the current challenge of health management of an unpredictable virus. Management that is generating a huge debate that is another challenge for unity in the various communities. 

We are all, at one time or another, on the rocky road to Emmaus, downcast and without answers to our problems. 

We continue to move forward because we have to move forward, but our heart is not in it anymore. Our path is sinking into the night.

And like the disciples of Emmaus, we go home forgetting that when we fall, we can only fall into the arms of the crucified and risen one.

But it is when we feel that we have reached a dead end - let us hope so - that God wants to come to us. 

And perhaps, precisely because it is a dead end, the Lord joins us.


Four ways to rekindle hope 

Charles Péguy wrote about hope: "The easy way and the slope is to despair and this is the great temptation". 

Therefore, he invites us to revive the "little girl hope":

How does Jesus go about rekindling hope? 

Rereading the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus has four tactics: 

  • First he walks our paths
  • Then he meets us as a person. 
  • Then he makes us re-read our past in the light of the Scriptures.
  • Finally, he meets us through the Holy Communion. 

Two or three people on their way because of Jesus, and who are met by the Risen One. 

Opening the Scriptures and breaking bread together are indispensable marks for the Church to be Church. 

And this also has great significance for the pilgrimage towards Christian unity. 

Four "sacraments" in a way: those of the Way and of the Meeting, those of the Word and of the Last Supper. I invite you to reflect on this by walking through four stages 

I therefore propose a meditation on the road to Emmaus in four moments: 

  • A path 
  • A meeting
  • A Word 
  • A meal 


March 1: Emmaus, a path

Let's start with the path! 

Emmaus is a great text for the spirituality of pilgrimage, where we walk together and stop on the way. 

A path on which the Risen One meets us through his Word. 

The Christian life is a walk. The verb to walk - poreuomai in Greek - is important in Luke's Gospel. 

In particular, it expresses the determination of Jesus as he moves towards Jerusalem to face his tragic fate. 

The disciples walk but they do not yet know that they are not alone. 

The repetition of this verb in this story is not accidental. 

The march represents the life of humans as well as believers and it must come to an end, even if this end is temporary.

This story also shows us what the Church is in the deepest sense: a Church on the way. A "synodal" Church, where we move forward together (the term "synod" means "on the way together") 


Question 1 

What has been my path lately? And what have I experienced with those who walk with me?

Step 2: Emmaus, a Meeting 

Emmaus also tells us about our difficulties in walking together. 

To designate the conversation between the disciples, the text uses two verbs: firstly "homileo", to talk, to converse in a serious manner. 

And "suzeto" which means to argue vigorously, to dispute. On the way the disciples differed in their interpretation of the recent events in Jerusalem. In short, they were arguing! 

"Jesus himself drew near ... and went with them" (v.15)

The ancient iconography of the road to Emmaus first retained the encounter on the road. The Eucharistic interpretations are later. 

Jesus takes the first step, welcomes, and takes an interest in the two disciples. 

Everyone is worthy of interest and of being listened to.

Emmaus is a path of welcome where I accept to walk with the other. 

How can we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us? (Romans 15:7) 

By walking together, we bring each other closer. 

We get to know each other better. 

Jesus continues to come to us. He may come through a friend, a stranger, an encounter, a happy or unhappy event. At first sight, we do not recognise him. We think he is confined to our churches. But he is there, accompanying us on the road.

Emmaus is a path of encounter, where we can open our hearts to each other. How can we better listen to the joys as well as the wounds with the people we walk with? 


Then Jesus asked the disciples, "What were you talking about on the way

Interesting! Jesus' first words after his resurrection are in the form of a question. 

Jesus is a master at asking questions. 

The nature of the human being is to ask questions. If there are no questions, we go in circles. To move forward, you have to ask questions. 

This text is a beautiful "icon" of dialogue. Three men in dialogue. 

Following in their footsteps, Christians today are called to dialogue. 

Dialogue with people of other religious faiths, and most often with people who have no religious beliefs, who are gradually becoming the majority in Europe. 

Through dialogue, Jesus builds friendship and trust with the disciples on the way. 

After having listened to the other person to the end, the Christian is also led to bear witness to the hope that lives within him. And this often happens during the conviviality of a meal. 

What happens next is not up to us. It is Christ who can touch a heart and inflame it with the conviction that he is alive. 


The difficulty of believing

The meeting between Jesus and the disciples is difficult at first. But Jesus is not discouraged. He wants a relationship. 

First the disciples express their disapproval of the one who challenges them, in a non-verbal way (v. 17-18). 

They look 'gloomy'. The meaning of this word vacillates between sadness, sternness, sulkiness, weariness, bad mood, trouble, worry. 

Then Cleopas' response to Jesus is aggressive. I can imagine him "shouting" at Jesus: "Are you the only one who does not know what has happened in Jerusalem these days”? 

Despite the testimony of the empty tomb by the women and the words of the angels, the two disciples could not believe that Jesus had really risen. 

This is also a great text on doubt and the difficulty of believing. 

Likewise, the other Gospels do not ignore the doubts of the disciples when the resurrection was announced. So many people today doubt the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus!

With the disciples of Emmaus, we walk with the great procession of doubters for whom the resurrection remains an impossibility. 


Questions 2 

Here are some questions to ponder and share along the way: 

How do I see myself in relation to the resurrection of Jesus? 

How am I on my way with those who do not share my faith in the Risen One?

What initiative do I take to reach them? 

How do I accompany them? 


Step 3: Emmaus, a Word 

"He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." (v. 27)

Emmaus is above all a path of the Gospel. 

Through dialogue, Jesus built a relationship with them. The initial hostility of the disciples gave way to listening and respect. 

It is then that Jesus begins to open the Scriptures to testify to who he really is.  

This illustrates an important and delicate point: the relationship between dialogue and evangelisation. In my opinion, they should not be opposed: either dialogue or evangelisation. But these two moments must be articulated.

It is by building a relationship that I can bear witness and even challenge, as Jesus does: " How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! "

The accusation is not that they did not recognise him on the way, nor that they did not believe the women who said they saw him alive, nor that they did not believe the announcements of his passion and resurrection. 

But Jesus' accusation is about the reading of the Scriptures. They have not understood what the Scriptures say about him. They are 'without understanding' and their 'hearts are slow to believe'. The reading of the Scriptures appeals to the reason and the heart. It is intellectual and believing at the same time. 

Lectio divina, a spiritual and believing reading of the Scriptures, should not be contrasted with studious and academic reading. 

An integral reading of the Scriptures involves both study and spirituality, academic research and trusting acceptance in prayer. Faith, likewise, has an objective and a subjective aspect. 

Here too, the two should not be opposed, but the intelligence of the faith should nourish the confidence of the heart and vice versa.  

This account makes us understand that the resurrection of Christ is communicated by the Word and received by faith.

Question 3

What is my relationship with the Scriptures? What place do they have in my "mind" and in my "heart"? 


Step 4: Emmaus, a meal

This meal at Emmaus is Jesus' first after his resurrection. Others will follow. The book of Acts opens with a meal. And after Pentecost, it is by his Spirit that Jesus participates in the meal he instituted before his passion. 

It is not difficult to recognise in the gesture of the breaking of bread the gesture that Jesus made on the night he was betrayed. The revelation of the Risen One to the disciples has an Eucharistic framework.

After explaining the Word of God to the disciples, Jesus manifests himself to them during his meal. 

The reader of the Gospel can then identify with the disciples, for he too has probed the Scriptures and shared the Last Supper in order to encounter Christ, in the understanding of faith and the burning of the heart. 

Word and sacrament are forever the two essential marks of Christian life. They are at the heart of the Church's life. 

The Lord's Supper (or Eucharist) centres us each time on the heart of our faith: Jesus Christ died for us and rose again to communicate his life to us. 

It allows us to understand Scripture from the perspective of Easter, which I believe is what Jesus intended. 

The more I participate in the Lord's Supper, the more I understand that the centre of all Scripture is Jesus crucified who gave himself for me so that I might give myself to others. And Jesus who rose for us to live among us.  

The Lord's Supper leads us to relate each passage of the Bible to it. This is the heart of the 'lectio divina' process (see below)

A frequent celebration of the Lord's Supper opens our eyes to Christ, which are constantly threatened by spiritual cataracts. 

This story makes us understand that the Last Supper is not only an evocation of the last meal, but above all an encounter with Jesus. 


Another point of attention!

When they arrived at Emmaus, "Jesus continued on as if he were going farther", says the account. Where did he want to go? To his home, which is his Father's home! 

But he enters the disciples' house and sits down to eat. When the bread is broken, the disciples' eyes are opened and he disappears. To go where? To his Father's house! 

At Emmaus, the presence of the Risen One among his own people, around the table where the bread is broken, opens onto a disappearance that is just as contrary to the laws of existence as his appearance on the road. 

This is the paradox that we experience at every Holy Communion: the gathered Church experiences an encounter with the Risen One who leads us to the Father. 

If Jesus comes to us in the Lord's Supper, it is to go further: he is on his way to the Father and he takes us to him. 

In fact, the whole of Jesus' earthly journey is a journey towards the Father, from Baptism to the Passion. His path is a path of exodus, of going out to his Father - "exodos" - according to the account of the transfiguration in the Gospel of Luke. (9,31)

He opens this way for us, his brothers and sisters. He calls us “brothers and sisters” after his resurrection, not before: "Go and tell my brothers that I am going to my Father and your Father" (John 20,17; Mat 2810) 

The presence of Jesus cannot be located. It is given to us in order to lead us to the Father and to meet our brothers and sisters, placing ourselves at their service and bearing witness to the fact that Jesus is risen. 


Question 4 

What place does the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist have in my life? 


Final reflection: the wounding of the relationship

Jacob, in his struggle with the angel, receives a wound in his hip which causes him to limp. At the end of the fight, the angel also gives him a blessing. (Cf. Genesis 32) Injury and blessing: in every encounter there is both the promise of a blessing, but also the risk of injury. Sometimes we may refuse the relationship for fear of being hurt. But then we isolate ourselves and die of loneliness or dryness of heart.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus was not afraid to enter a relationship. He wanted it, he sought it, he went to the end of the relationship. Mortally wounded, he continued to love those who hurt him. Jesus is God who enters into our relationships out of love, to live them with us and to receive the wound of the relationship.

With the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he again takes the initiative in the relationship. As in all the other accounts of appearances after his resurrection. 

The least we can say is that he is rather freshly received: the disciples look sombre after Jesus' question. With a non-verbal expression of their disapproval. We have noticed the aggressiveness of Cleopas' response. Clearly these people are not at all interested in entering into a relationship. 

These are hurtful attitudes. And by these attitudes the disciples hurt themselves. But the risen Jesus can no longer be hurt. He wants a relationship, and we know what happens next: the relationship he sought leads to joy. 

In the account of the apparition in Jerusalem that follows the account of the Emmaus pilgrims, we see that Jesus keeps the marks of the wounds on his hands and feet (Luke 24:40).

After the resurrection, he shows them to his disciples. He sits down with them to eat fish. He sends them out into the world to be his witnesses, giving them the Spirit. And finally, he blesses them (24,50). What does it mean for us to be blessed by a God with pierced hands? 

Doesn't this tell us that we will never again have to fear meeting others? That we can go to any place with this firm confidence, that if we receive a wound, the God who was himself wounded will be there to accompany us. 

To be blessed by a God who entered into relationships to the point of experiencing the wound of love in his body, does it not mean that the most important thing for us is to experience relationships? 

Our whole life is a series of relationships with each other. Just as Jesus lived them by giving himself to others, we must live them by seeking to make each encounter a masterpiece. 

The disciples on the road to Emmaus, and then those in the cenacle in Jerusalem, were filled with great joy after their encounter with the Risen One.  This joy will accompany them throughout their lives, even when some of them will receive the wound of martyrdom. 

It is this joy of Christ's presence in our midst that continues in the Church. The presence of the Risen One in our midst is constitutive of the life of the Church. 

It is the source of all vocations to the various services, ministries, and community life; it also renews all structures. His presence is a light that envelops us and gives us the strength to carry out his will and to take the steps forward that he asks of us.

But in order to have this presence of the Risen One in our midst, there is one condition: that we do not run away from our relationships, which always carry the risk of injury. 

If we have this willingness to risk relationship in the name of Christ, that is, by being ready to give something of ourselves to others, then the presence of Christ can become manifest. 

He acts, calls and turns hearts around. As long as he is there, it is Easter, it is the true Church. The Church is truly Church, if Jesus is spiritually present, and he can only be if, in faith and love in him, we take the risk of relationship. 



Who is the other disciple?

The evangelist Luke, according to the orthodox tradition!

It can be seen as a literary device: everyone can identify with this other anonymous disciple, like "the disciple whom Jesus loved" who is found both at the cross and at the empty tomb, the model of the disciple in John's gospel. 

At the end of the Emmaus Road, on which I have walked twice as part of the JC2033 initiative I am working on, in Nicopolis, is a life-size icon of the two disciples with Jesus in their midst. The face of the unnamed disciple has a hole in it: anyone can get in. 

The other disciple could be Cleopas' wife, who was at the foot of the cross of Jesus (John 19:25). A clue in the text are the words "their eyes were opened". Where do we find a similar notation? In the story of the third chapter of Genesis, where the man and woman open their eyes to their nakedness and hide. In the risen Christ, man and woman find their vocation to be witnesses of the Lord together! 


Practical approach 

Here is a possible approach for the four times of the walk. 

- Reading of the text of Luke 24 and introduction (10 minutes) on one of the four points of the Emmaus story (path, meeting, Word, meal) 

- For 20 minutes, each person walks alone, meditating on this point 

- Then, for 20 minutes, sharing in pairs on the personal meditation 

This process can be repeated four times: the first two points can be taken on the way there and back. The last two can be taken the next day, for example.


Sharing our existential Emmaus.  

In the text, there is a slow gestation, a long journey to Emmaus and a brief return to Jerusalem. In contrast, the road to Damascus is a flash in the pan. Roads to Damascus or roads to Emmaus? 

Why not share your "existential Emmaus" in a small group, following the model of the Global Christian Forum: tell your faith journey in small groups in seven minutes? Then, in a second step, to give an echo to what has been experienced. 

Another possible approach is to live a participatory "Lectio divina", according to the approach proposed by the École de la Parole in French-speaking Switzerland. 


On the methodology of the Global Christian Forum's "journeys of faith", see: https://agck.ch/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Partage-en-groupes-du-cheminement-de-foi-guide-des-participants.pdf 

On Lectio divina: https://www.la-bible.ch/prestations/brochures-de-lectio-divina/ 


A prayer 


Blessed are you for Jesus, your Son, whom you sent to make a way of hope. 

He entered our prisons to set us free. 

He took upon himself our brokenness to heal us. 

He loved to the extreme to reconcile us. 

Through him we are delivered from the fear of death. 

In him, hope for a new world, just and at peace, is reborn. 


Martin Hoegger


 What is Walk'nPray ?

Walk'nPray is a 50-day prayer initiative designed to encourage Christians and the Church to take to the streets to bless their neighborhood, city, region and country. 

Walk'nPray began in 2018, when a vision was born to cover the streets of Geneva with prayer for a period of 40 days, from Easter to Ascension 2019. Our team realised that the wider church in Geneva needed to catch the vision with us, and we invited all Christians in Geneva, whatever their background, to join the initiative. The vision took off as many were encouraged to participate by their church leaders and as reports by prayer walkers started to stream in.  

From the start the question was "how will we know if all the streets have been covered". The solution we found was to transcribe by hand onto our Walk'nPray map the walks that were recorded by using a sports activity tracker application. This created a beautiful representation of the prayers and assisted practically to ensure every street was covered.


Geneva 2018 Day 39!

The response was incredible as Christians of all backgrounds took to the streets of Geneva to Walk’nPray, to bless their neighbors, schools, shops, and businesses. Participants shared their experiences and were encouraged through a Facebook chat group, there were also informal gatherings held for participants to attend. An Easter sunrise service at the lake was a wonderful moment to start the journey together.

During the new Covid pandemic of 2020, the project was placed on hold in keeping with the regional lockdowns that were in place. This Easter as restrictions are slowly starting to ease, we are convinced now more than ever of the need for Walk’nPray. To pray with our eyes and hearts open as we walk the streets of our cities and neighborhoods, expecting God to reveal His heart and compassion, blessing us with vision and hope for the days to come.

We have developed a Walk'nPray smartphone application available for download on both the Apple store and Google play. The app creates a prayer map that updates automatically and in real-time as participants walk and pray.With this new technology, we can now invite you to participate wherever you are in the world!

So how can I get involved this Easter?

Walk'nPray runs from March 7th - April 15th this year (2022)  and whilst it has already started you can still join in and experience this unique global prayer initiative. Maybe next year your trial could become a local initiative with other churches in your area.

It's simple. Download the app, start your prayer walk and bless your region. Why not invite other Christians in your area to join with you? 

To find out more please visit the website www.walknpray.com. We look forward to hearing your testimonies as we walk’n pray together with united hearts