While directed toward monks in community, St Benedict's words of wisdom still challenge us today
Saint Benedict offers profound wisdom in his Rule that can certainly be applied to our modern life. In particular he left instructions for his monks on how to receive a guest when they arrive at the monastery. While directed toward his brother monks, the principles behind the instructions can be used when we entertain guests in our own home.
Here are 6 tips that we can all learn from and incorporate the next time a guest crosses our threshold.
1. “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me’ (Matt. 25:35).”
This is simple advice which might seem obvious, however, how often do we live by it? Do we truly treat a guest who arrives at our home as if they were Christ? If we did, it would surely change everything that we do!
2. “In the salutation of all guests, whether arriving or departing, let all humility be shown. Let the head be bowed or the whole body prostrated on the ground in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.”
Bowing or falling down on the ground may disturb most modern-day guests, but what underlies this advice is the principle of humility. It means showing the utmost respect to those we encounter and seeking to serve their needs before our own.
3. “After the guests have been received and taken to prayer, let the Superior or someone appointed by him sit with them.”
Sometimes we greet our guest at the door, but then leave them without any further direction, as we hustle to the kitchen and finish up last-minute tasks. This can leave a guest feeling neglected or awkward, not knowing what to do. Saint Benedict suggests the host or some other person accompany them to their place. It is a simple act that helps a guest feel appreciated and loved.
4. “The Superior shall break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it happens to be a principal fast day which may not be violated.”
This is an interesting instruction, especially within the Lenten season. It reminds us that charity is to be sought after above all things, even if that means violating a personal fast we are keeping.
5. “Let the Abbot give the guests water for their hands; and let both Abbot and community wash the feet of all guests. After the washing of the feet let them say this verse: ‘We have received Your mercy, O God, in the midst of Your temple’ (Ps.47:10).”
Again, this instruction would scare most people today, but the principle behind it reminds us to think of every need of our guest. We should be attentive to them and try to anticipate and respect their human needs.
6. “In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims the greatest care and solicitude should be shown, because it is especially in them that Christ is received.”
Often one of the greatest challenges for us is to receive into our home a poor person. Saint Benedict urges us to receive them with utmost respect and to find Christ in them.
In the end, hospitality is both an art form and a work of mercy. Let us attend to the needs of our guests and treat them as if Christ walked into our home.