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“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matthew 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all.”
St. Benedict of Nursia wrote these words in the 6th century. With the sacking of Rome in 455 and the deposition of the last emperor in 476, civilization as he knew had collapsed around him. Amidst the confusion, many were tempted to hunker down and protect themselves from ‘the other.’ After all, it was the alien Vandals who had invaded Italy and threatened to forever change Latin Christian culture.
But instead of rejecting the outsider, St. Benedict urged Christians to practice hospitality. The Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, literally means ‘love of the stranger.’ This word is the exact opposite of our English word xenophobia. St. Benedict took seriously the teaching of Christ in Matthew 25: Christians will be judged by how we welcomed and cared for the least of these.
Because of St. Benedict and his example, Christians became known as people who welcomed the stranger, even at great cost to themselves.
While we may feel like our own civilization is falling apart, it is nowhere near as bad as 6th century Rome. Yet how much more should we, Christ Church Plano, seek to practice Christian hospitality like St. Benedict and his followers? This is why we host Gateway, our newcomer’s luncheon. This is why we serve as greeters and ushers at every worship service. This is why we brought on Trog Trogdon to serve as our Welcome & Local Mission Minister.
But true hospitality is not a ‘top-down’ thing. The staff of Christ Church can create a hospitable space, but it begins with you. When was the last time you invited a neighbor or friend to Christ Church? How often do you introduce yourself to those in the pew next to you? Do you ever welcome those who are alone in the Fellowship Hall after service?
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would empower us to practice deeper hospitality in this new season.
The Rev. Bryan BibaAssociate Rector, Adult Discipleship
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