Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 4, 2009

April 4, August 4, December 4

Chapter 53: On the Reception of Guests

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).
And to all let due honor be shown,
especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims.

As soon as a guest is announced, therefore,
let the Superior or the brethren meet him
with all charitable service.
And first of all let them pray together,
and then exchange the kiss of peace.
For the kiss of peace should not be offered
until after the prayers have been said,
on account of the devil's deceptions.

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.

After the guests have been received and taken to prayer,
let the Superior or someone appointed by him sit with them.
Let the divine law be read before the guest for his edification,
and then let all kindness be shown him.
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.
The brethren, however, shall observe the customary fasts.
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[48]:10).

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;
for as far as the rich are concerned,
the very fear which they inspire
wins respect for them.

Some thoughts:

Please forgive me in advance. What I write below has been pressing on my heart for some time. I feel very much as if the Rule of St Benedict has formed the ideas I present below.

Ever since General Convention 2006 (of the Episcopal Church) I've been thinking about Holy Hospitality. I can't help but think that if there was a whole lot more emphasis upon Holy Hospitality with no strings attached as Benedict taught,

The model the world wide Anglican Communion should be using is that of Holy Hospitality. We must remember that when we entertain guests, we entertain Christ. We in the USA claim that Holy Hospitality is our charism what with all those signs saying "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You." Except that not every Episcopalian welcomes every other Episcopalian or every other person. Welcoming another does not require that we agree with them, only that we look for Christ in them. That is our sacred obligation.

The practice of Holy Hospitality requires Christians to demonstrate to the world our gut wrenching conviction that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God. That every single Christian is called to only one vocation: to love God with all that we are and have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is only the details of living that vocation that differ. Sadly what we Christians all too often demonstrate is that we fail to love ourselves. We can see this in our failure to love our neighbors. Scripture teaches us that every single human being, even those yet to be born, are our neighbors.

The crisis of the Anglican Communion is a failure to love. Oh, I am sure there is a chorus of "hey wait a minute, what about". And yes, we do many good and wonderful things. But we do not do enough. Somehow we have failed to communicate to our parishes that it is not solely what we do that is important, it is how we love others that is important.

To badly paraphrase Evelyn Underhill, if we truly love God and truly experience God's love for us, that love cannot be contained within the bounds of a human body but must fling out our arms to embrace the world and the love of God must overflow our bodies, streaming form our very pores, to love and serve God's creation, every human being, every bit of creation.

It is a joyous but also frightening thing to love like this. It requires us to face up to the lack of love we give to ourselves, to admit how much we may be ruled by fear of what might happen if we let go of control. We are so busy discussing (or arguing!!) over this or that and the best way to accomplish such and such. What about if we just dispense with all that and ask ourselves instead "What is the most radical way to love my fellow bits of creation? What will benefit others, first and foremost?"

Can we find the courage to step beyond the tried and true and go further in and higher up in God's call to each of us to fully embrace and welcome all as though they were Jesus?

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