the good way

Welcoming the Stranger

Session 6 • Hospitality • Devotional

In ancient culture, hospitality was a common practice. There was a social obligation and moral responsibility to welcome strangers, indeed it was ingrained into ancient societies. By giving friendship, a warm fire, or food generously to your guest, they in turn might reciprocate that sometime in the future.

Hospitality is not just a Christian practice but it has always been essential to the story of God’s people.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Long before our hospitality industry existed, monastic communities were common stopping places for travelers. Often monasteries were situated near main routes so that they were convenient places of rest and refuge. Saint Benedict said that “all guests…are to be welcomed as Christ” and so monasteries not only offered food and shelter, but prayer and ministry too. What might it look like for the Church today to reclaim this ancient Christian practice?

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say, “I came as a guest and you received me.” Rule of St Benedict

In Ireland, the hospitality of Saint Brigid offered such a powerful example that it set the standard for the hospitality of the Irish people, as is reflected in the Irish Rune of Hospitality:

I saw a stranger yestreen;
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place,
and in the name of the Triune
he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones, and the lark said in her song
often, often, often,
goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise,
often, often, often,
goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.

On Meeting a Stranger

By John O’Donohue: To Bless the Space Between Us

With respect
And reverence
That the unknown
Between us
Might flower
Into discovery
And lead us
The familiar field
Blind with the weed
Of weariness
And the old walls
Of habit.

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