Thursday, 24 December 2009

Hospitality according to Benedict

Joan Chittister (above) writes a commentary on the Rule of St Benedict, and this morning's entry made me think about how I open the door of my house, and the door of my life to others. There is a tension between being centred and still, and being open and welcoming, how can we be both? Joan says:

Guests are welcomed enthusiastically in Benedictine spirituality but, at the same time, life is not to be frittered away on work, on social life, on the public bustle of the day. The community is to stay as self-contained as possible so that centered in the monastery they stay centered in their hearts. More, this balance between public and private, between openness and centeredness, between consciousness of the outside world and concentration on interior growth is to be remembered and rehearsed over and over again: "We wish this rule to be read often," the rule says plaintively so that the monastic never forgets that the role of the committed Christian is always to grow richer themselves so that they can give richly to others. 

Abba Cassian, a desert monastic, told the following story: "Once upon a time, we two monks visited an elder. Because he offered us hospitality we asked him, "Why do you not keep the rule of fasting when you receive visiting brothers?" And the old monastic answered, "Fasting is always at hand but you I cannot have with me always. Furthermore, fasting is certainly a useful and necessary thing, but it depends on our choice while the law of God lays it upon us to do the works of charity. Thus, receiving Christ in you, I ought to serve you with all diligence, but when I have taken leave of you, I can resume the rule of fasting again."

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