The Rule of St. Benedict’s reading for today concerns the reception of guests at the monastery. The Bible and ancient culture have a great emphasis on hospitality. Abraham hosts the three “angels,” Jesus invited himself over to Zacchaeus’s house, he sent the disciples out with nothing to rely on the hospitality of others, the Apostles were also hosted in many homes as they started the Church. Early Christians especially monks held to this tradition and many monastic groups still do. Part of this comes down to Jesus’s statement about the last judgment, “Then the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'” Christians have taken this statement seriously. One way this idea is lived out is in The Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 53), “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ,”
Those who want to live out the monastic life, should take very seriously the idea to be hospital to guests. Giving them all that they require and more. In today’s reading St. Benedict wants their to be a separate kitchen for the abbot and his guests, so that if any arrive at irregular hours, the order of the monastery is not disturbed. It is important to receive guests but it is also important for the monk to keep on his path to God.
When we receive guests we should welcome them and make them feel at home, but do not sacrifice the holiness of your house or your practices. If you pray the evening office, invite the guest to join with you, but do not forsake it, because of the presence of guests, they need the prayer as much as you do. Also see to their needs and if you can treat them to a special meal or give them the best portion of food. Break any fast that you might have for a guest, as it better show the humility of hosting a guest than keeping a fast.
Story Time: When some monks, from Palestine, came to an Egyptian desert Father, they asked him why he did not fast when he received them, as they did in Palestine? The hermit answered, ‘Fasting is always possible but I cannot keep you here for ever. Fasting is useful and necessary, but we can choose to fast or not fast. God’s law demands from us perfect love. I receive Christ when I receive you, so I must do all I can to show you love. When I have said goodbye to you, I can take up my rule of fasting again.” (adapted from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Penguin Classics trans. Benedicta Ward.)
How do you show hospitality?