The Nativity Season and Hospitality

Ever burdened with our American consumerism and capitalism orientation to life (“How much will it cost?” “What’s my time worth?” “How will it affect my finances?”), it seems we often equate our ability to give hospitality with however much we’ve calculated we can spare. When we sense we can spare some change, some time or energy, then we feel able to bear being hospitable. But a quick browse through Scripture and the teaching of the saints confronts that self-absorbed interpretation of hospitality very quickly; for authentic love is not absent of hospitality. “And above all things have fervent love for one another  … be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:8).

Saint Theodoros the Great (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 32) instructs us in being hospitable: “When we receive visits from our neighbors, we should not consider this an irksome interruption, lest we cut ourselves off from the law of love. Nor should we receive them as if we were doing them a favor, but rather as if it is we ourselves who are receiving a favor; therefore, being indebted to them, we should beg them cheerfully to enjoy our hospitality. This is why the Apostle John says: ‘My children, let us love not in word or tongue, but in action and truth. And by this we know that we belong to the truth’ (1 John 3:18). “True love of neighbor naturally manifests in hospitality.

The mystery of hospitality lies in the unknown good fruit it will bear. The seeds planted by having someone to breakfast, drinking a beer together, our simply sharing time together over good conversation may bear spiritual blessings in ways we will never know. How many of us have been given hope, been encouraged, lifted up from despair, kindled with the love of Christ, inspired, and blessed in so many other ways by a simple act of kindness from another person? Let us remember the words of Christ, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Mt. 25:40). As Elder Anthimos of St. Anne’s Skete reminds us, “Do not forget hospitality. You don’t know what this hospitality might render. By hospitality, Abraham hosted the Holy Trinity, and Lot entertained angels.”

Let’s us make practicing hospitality between Thanksgiving and Nativity a priority this year. We can host a gathering, or meal, just coffee and dessert. We can share our lunch at school or work, or simply ask someone hew the’re doing and open our ears with compassion. Buy a pack of gum and share it with the first person you encounter.

Ler’s turn off the ‘me’ for the Nativity fast and turn on the ‘we’. In doing so, we become enlightened to truth and real reality. Our neighbor then is no longer an inconvenience, an expense, a waste of time, or a drain on our energy or productivity. They are our path to salvation! And every encounter of hospitality becomes an opportunity to experience Christ. “And while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence” (Lk. 24:41).

Whatever we’ve got, let’s share it!

 Source: St. Lawrence Orthodox Church

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