I saw a stranger today.
I put food for him in the eating-place
And drink in the drinking-place
And music in the listening-place.
In the Holy name of the Trinity
He blessed myself and my family.
And the lark said in her warble
Often, often, often
Goes Christ in the stranger’s guise.
O, oft and oft and oft,
Goes Christ in the stranger’s guise.
The Greek word for “hospitality” literally means, “love of stranger” (XENOPHILIA). I wonder how open my heart is to love strangers, to welcome people I do not know into my life, my time, my home, my heart. Then I ask, whose life, whose time, whose home, whose heart is it I think I am living in? Ancient hospitality sees the stranger as Christ, welcoming the stranger with love, acceptance, giving of time, table, friendship. For Christ himself, on the last Day will declare to all lovers of strangers, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me!” With this very declaration in mind, St. Benedict tells us “Welcome as Christ all guests who present themselves” (The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 53:1). The stranger at your door may just be a long lost family member returning home. 

Note: This anonymous “Celtic Rune of Hospitality” is from the Isle of Iona, Scotland, discovered in the Iona Community gift shop on an art card, September, 2005. Etchining above is Rembrandt “Prodigal son”, portraying Luke 15.

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