Their Hearts Were Burning

On 30 September 2021, Associate Professor Doru Costache presented the paper “Their Hearts Were Burning: Emmaus as ‘Realised Eschatology’ in the Philokalic Tradition” at the Sydney College of Divinity’s Centre for Gospels and Acts Research Biennial Conference. The conference focused on Jesus: Beginning, Middle, and End of Time? Eschatology in Gospels and Acts Research, and was held online from 30 September to 1 October 2021.


In his recent book, Scripture Re-envisioned: Christophanic Exegesis and the Making of a Christian Bible (Brill, 2019), Bogdan Bucur takes the Emmaus Narrative in Luke 24 as a ‘pattern of biblical exegesis’ and a ‘methodological prolegomenon’ for examining biblical theophanies. For him, the scriptural story is a key to interpret other narratives, such as the many Old Testament references to the glorified Messiah. But more relevant to my purposes is Bucur’s detailed analysis of the ‘burning hearts’ of the two disciples (Luke 24:32), where he discusses scriptural antecedents of this image and its recurrence within the patristic tradition. Bucur’s analysis does not make quite clear whether the reference to the ‘burning hearts’ signifies a genuine experience or merely is a metaphorical expression of the Lord’s presence. And while I have no intention to deny the manifold scriptural and patristic connections of this phrase, as he outlined them, in this paper I set out to show that for the Orthodox philokalic tradition the ‘burning hearts’ indeed are a charismatic experience of the divine presence that can best be understood as ‘realised eschatology.’ To make this assertion intelligible, first I introduce the philokalic tradition as a body of Byzantine literature that maps spiritual experiences. Second, I provide an inventory of textual occurrences of the ‘burning heart’ in the eighteenth-century Athonite Philokalia. Third, I exemplify this experience as a charism of the divine presence by analysing the sixth-century Life of Mary of Egypt, a text that was not codified together with other philokalic sources. Finally, I interpret the Emmaus narrative as denoting a charismatic experience of the philokalic sort, and as representing what George Florovsky called ‘realised eschatology.’

Audio recording

30 September 2021 © AIOCS

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