Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Divine Hospitality

From Vultus Christi:
Consider the actions of Abraham: he ran to meet his guests; he bowed low before them; he washed their feet; he offered them a place to rest in the shade; he offered them bread to eat and milk to drink. Abraham’s expression of hospitality passed into the liturgy of the Church: the ancient rites of Baptism may be interpreted as an expression of divine hospitality. In ancient times, the feet of the new Christian were washed, his head was anointed with oil, and milk and honey were given him. Water washes and soothes the way–worn feet of the weary seeker; oil is an ointment for the head and face burnt by the sun; food restores strength; and drink refreshes the parched tongue. All of these things, that passed into the rites of the Church, and also into the rites of monastic initiation, bespeak the munificent hospitality of the divine Host. The psalmist says it: “Blessed is he whom thou hast chosen and taken to thee: he shall dwell in thy courts. We shall be filled with the good things of thy house” (Ps 64:5).

In the early ages of the Church, hospitality was numbered, together with chastity and sobriety, among the essential and distinctive Christian virtues. The disappearance of the traditions of hospitality in contemporary culture is evidence of the crisis of dehumanisation that, ultimately, leads to the acceptance and institutionalisation of abortion and euthanasia. Among the Christians of the first centuries, and well into the Middle Ages, and even until the Protestant revolt, hospitality was not merely a personal or familial virtue; it was one of the chief characteristics of the hierarchical community of the Church. Bishops were charged, not only with serving at the altar, governing, and teaching, but also with ensuring an active and attentive hospitality. This hospitality extended beyond the welcoming of strangers and pilgrims to the “hospitalisation” of the poor, the outcast, the sick, and the shamed. (Read more.)

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