“May all arriving guests be received as Christ.” Rule of Saint Benedict 53:1
The “guest” can be a stranger, a friend-to-be, members of our community who are marginalized, or our closest friends and family. Hospitality involves being truly present to others, being aware of their needs and challenges, and responding to them with respect as much as possible. For our loved ones, we must welcome each other again and again, forgive each other as we grow together or apart, give each other grace and space as we grow. Recent news has caused me to reflect on the importance of extending hospitality to the health of our minds and to the souls of organizations, communities, states and countries; consider how I have given and received hospitality, and how it has been refused by myself or others. Inadvertently or intentionally, we often do not welcome others. We are human – busy, thoughtless, oblivious – it is forgivable, but what we have witnessed – immigrants lured to an unknown place with the promise of shelter and work – goes beyond the denial of hospitality. Diana Butler Bass writes about Radical Hospitality in her Cottage Sunday Musings, commenting on the appalling news that “immigrants are lured from a San Antonio shelter by the Governor of Florida and shipped to Massachusetts because some sort of stunt politics is deeply cruel. the use of people in distress for political purposes. And the mirth and amusement this episode inspired among self-proclaimed “Christian” politicians was nauseating… A church on Martha’s Vineyard was home to unexpected arrivals, “unwitting angels,” as guests worthy of treatment worthy, is a testimony of kindness and generosity, a vision of the world as God intends it – to practice hospitality towards strangers. I encourage you to read his letter which includes an excerpt adapted from his book, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (2004). She “points out that NO ONE can call themselves a Christian unless they practice hospitality to strangers…If every religious community were like a swarm of bees, running to meet the displaced, the lost, and the unexpected strangers with equal pleasure, the same zeal, and eagerness as the early Christians. Theologian Letty Russell once noted, “The word for hospitality in the Greek New Testament is philoxenia, love of the stranger. Its opposite is xenophobia, hatred of foreigners. Philoxenia turns strangers into friends.
What a difference philoxenia would make a difference in our world — and in our politics — right now.”
I also offer excerpts and links to other thoughts I have written on hospitality: Hospitality to Friends Friendships, old and new, are a treasure, a gift of hospitality and a welcome from other in your life. Friendships create a space to come home to, an opportunity to be fully seen as who we are and who we want to become. Friendships are an opportunity to accept another’s hospitality as well, to see ourselves through the eyes of our special friends. Friendships with women are part sisterhood, part mothering, part chair counseling, part spiritual direction. The Cell Phone Problem We need to look away from our cell phones and all the distractions of a busy life long enough to remember the Benedictine value of practicing hospitality. Being hospitable is our chance to respond to God’s great generosity to us. Hospitality is being present to others, taking the time to appreciate the presence of the other and being attentive to what the other shares. Humor is the hand of hospitality Hospitality can be different from one situation to another. It could be opening up your home to someone else or serving a meal, but it could also be cracking a joke to break the ice or ease some tension. Humor is the hand of hospitality. Hospitality and Icon of the Holy Trinity Fr. Thomas also gave us a special gift, a replica of the icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev. A religious icon, picture or image, communicates a deeper spiritual meaning often used in prayer and meditation for Christians around the world. It was a special image for him, used as a holy card for his ordination and his first mass in 1992. our new home. The three angels in the icon symbolize the three strangers whom Abraham welcomes into his tent in Genesis.
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance to his tent…he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them… He ran to the herd, chose a tender and choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly took it prepare. Then he took curds and milk, and the calf that had been prepared, and set them before them, waiting for them under the tree while they ate (Genesis 18:1-8).