Monday, July 16, 2007

Hospitality: Christ who is wandering by

Those of you who know the movie "Babette's Feast" will recognize the picture and also the message of this great movie about Grace and Feasting and Hospitality. Babette received grace and gave it under the distressing guise of hospitality in a less than hospitable community.

Under the category of "getting it right" here is a commentary on hospitality from Saint John Chrysostom (around 345-407), Bishop of Antioch, then of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church. He usually tells it like it is.

Homily 45 on the Acts of the Apostles; PG 60: 318-320

“Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to drink… will surely not lose his reward."

"I was a stranger," Christ says, "and you took me in" (Mt 25:35). And again, "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me." (Mt 25:40). In each believer and brother, though he may be the least, Christ comes to you through him. Open your house, take him in. "He that receives a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward."…

These are the qualities that ought to be in those who welcome strangers: readiness, cheerfulness, liberality. For strangers feel abashed and ashamed, and unless his host shows real joy, he feels slighted and goes away, and his being received in this way makes it worse than not to have received him.

Therefore, set aside a room in your house, to which Christ may come; say, "This is Christ's room; this is set apart for him." Even if it is very simple, he will not disdain it. Christ goes about "naked and a stranger"; he needs shelter: do not hesitate to give it to him. Do not be uncompassionate, nor inhuman.

You are earnest in worldly matters, do not be cold in spiritual matters… You have a place set apart for your chariot, but none for Christ who is wandering by? Abraham received strangers in his own home (Gn 18); his wife took the place of a servant, the guests the place of masters. They did not know that they were receiving Christ, that they were receiving angels.

If Abraham had known it, he would have lavished his whole substance. But we, who know that we receive Christ, do show not as much zeal as he did, who thought that he was receiving mere men."

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