In recent years the Archbishop of Glasgow has been encouraging a wider sense of Lent as a special time by encouraging a number of cul- tural events which have religious associations starting with Mardi Gras/Pancake Tuesday. For Lentfest this year he invited a number of Scottish artists to submit paintings reflecting the themes of the Passion and the Resurrection of the Christ.
Among those invited was Gerard Burns who was allocated the subject of The Road to Emmaus, a story that has been celebrated by many famous artists, most notably Caravaggio. Purely by coincidence (or could it be providence?) Gerard had been invited by an Emmaus Glas- gow board member to be at her table at our 2011 fundraiser. He had brought along one of his paintings which contributed significantly to the magnificent sum of £21,000 raised on the night.
As soon as Gerard saw the word Emmaus he knew immediately that he had to get up to Emmaus Glasgow and through Anne Dean and our staff he arranged to meet with some of our companions to share with them his thoughts as to how he might approach the subject of The Road to Emmaus. The outcome was that three of our companions, Robbie, Mark and Craig sat for the artist as Jesus and the two disciples he met on the road.
We know to our cost that many of our supporters are not sure of the pronunciation of Emmaus. Neither are we! It is a Jewish word, the name of a place just a few miles from Jerusalem. And why is that important to us? According to the Gospel story after Jesus had been executed his followers not surprisingly got out of town smartly. Two of them, naturally very dejected, were amazed to experience his presence again on the road to Emmaus.
The founder of Emmaus International, the French priest Abbé Pierre, whose birth centenary we will celebrate in August, thought of this story when the police first brought to him a man who had thought of committing suicide. For the Abbé Pierre the word Emmaus meant don’t despair, all is not lost, there is hope. Since then Emmaus has become shorthand for a movement that is like the Salvation Army in France and has now spread throughout the world. That is why even in Scotland the word Emmaus remains essential to our work.
As a result three of our companions have their portrait hanging in Glasgow University! The story has attracted much media attention and was the focus of a BBC Radio Scotland programme. For us there is nothing strange about having been founded by a priest who was only reminding anyone who wanted to listen how we should respond to the homeless.The message of Emmaus is for all people of goodwill.
Willy Slavin, Chair of Emmaus Glasgow