Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Saint of the Month: St. Cleopas

St. Cleopas

AKA: Possibly "Clopas."  There seems to be two schools of thought about whether Cleopas and Clopas are the same guy.
Feast Day: September 25 in Catholicism; however, October 30 in Eastern Orthodoxy and November 10 for the Copts.

Really Existed? He's in scripture, which can be anything from absolute proof to no evidence at all, depending on your mindset.
Timeframe: Would have likely been 10 to 25 years older than Jesus.
Place: Jerusalem. 

Credentials: By tradition.
Martyrdom: None.

Patron Saint of: No known patronage.
Symbolism: Shown by artists in the context of the story of the Road to Emmaus.

The Road to Emmaus is a concept I'd heard of, but I didn't really know what it was, because I am an ignoramus, and didn't pay attention in Sunday school, and haven't made it past Jonah in the Bible.  It turns out that it is one of the first sightings of the resurrected Jesus Christ, as narrated in Luke 24:13-27. 

Here's the story: Two folks are walking towards Emmaus, a village outside of Jerusalem, talking about how sad they are about this whole crucifixion business that went down over the weekend.  As they walk, they encounter the risen Jesus, but he's incognito and they don't recognize him.  He asks why they're so blue, and they say that there was this awesome prophet who they liked and thought might be the Messiah, but he got killed by the Romans on Friday.  At which point Jesus says "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" which is actually maybe a little hard on them.  

Jesus goes on to "expound... to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."  That confused me a bit, since I tend to conflate "Scriptures" with "Gospels," and it can be deduced that the Gospels were in fact not yet written at this moment; however, what's really going on of course is that Jesus is citing Old Testament writings that presumably point towards his own coming and recent execution -- although, at this point he still hasn't let Cleopas and his companion know who he is.

About this time, they get to Emmaus.  Jesus looks like he's going to keep going, but they persuade him to overnight with them.  However, at dinner he first reveals his identity to them and then vanishes.  They are all like "OMG," and even though its getting dark they start back to Jerusalem right away to find the disciples, who are still wide awake when they get there and already discussing the other Jesus sightings that have been happening.  At that point, Jesus appears among them again -- but from here on, there is no special mention of St. Cleopas, who is just one person in a small crowd of disciples and apostles.

Now then, there is apparently another figure who shows up in the Gospel of John and various apocryphal writings names Clopas.  It's reasonable to wonder if there's a typo and Cleopas and Clopas are the same guy, in which case things get interesting for St. Cleopas, as Clopas is thought to be a brother of St. Joseph, who is of course Jesus's... well... earthly father?  Adoptive human father?  Step-dad?  This would make him -- him, Cleopas -- Jesus's uncle, which would be both quite an honor and help explain why he was feeling so bad on the Road to Emmaus.  No less a figure than the great Bishop Epiphanius "adds that Joseph and Cleopas were brothers, sons of 'Jacob, surnamed Panther.'"  This last raises the intriguing thought that, if we were to apply modern Western naming conventions, Jesus's last name would be "Panther," which would certainly be rather a rather badass revelation here in the English-speaking world.  This is no doubt complete hogwash, of course.

Cleopas's sainthood appears to be a matter of being close to the scene of the action, and perhaps his rumored family connections.  For such a universally recognized saint, he is by no means a major figure.  He is not mentioned, for example, in any of the four volumes of the L&T hagiographical collection.

Have a great feast day of St. Cleopas!

St. Cleopas (middle) as portrayed by Rowan LeCompte and Irene Matz LeCompte, Third Station of the Resurrection: The Walk to Emmaus (detail), 1970, in the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.   Blogger Victoria Emily Jones, who also took this photograph, discusses why St. Cleopas's companion is often thought to be a woman, and shows great additional examples of the Emmaus meet-up as imagined by artists. 


Chance said...

"They are all like "OMG,"

Quite literally

Michael5000 said...