Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 61:1-7

To be read: April 16, August 16, December 16

If a monk from far away arrives and desires to stay in the monastery as a guest, 2and is satisfied with the customs he finds there, and does not trouble the monastery with unreasonable demands, 3but is satisfied with what he finds, let him be received for as long as he desires. 4Still, if he should reasonably, with humility and charity, criticize or point out anything, the Abbot should prudently consider whether the Lord may have sent him for that very purpose. 5If later, the visitor makes known his desire to declare his stability, he should not be denied, and especially since his life could be examined during his stay as a guest. 6But if during the time that he was a guest he was found to be troublesome and disorderly, he must not be admitted to the monastic body 7but instead, he should even be politely requested to leave, that others may not be infected by his evil life. 

It is interesting that in verse four of this chapter, Benedict says that if the visiting monk “should reasonably, with humility and charity, criticize or point out anything, the Abbot should prudently consider whether the Lord may have sent him for that very purpose.”  This reflects the statement that the author of the epistle to the Hebrews makes:  “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (13:2).  God often puts people in our path who have been sent to speak into our lives.  We need to be open to that possibility.  We need to practice hospitality.  

The New Testament declares that hospitality is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Paul lists “helpers” in his secondary list of the charismatic gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28.  And in Romans 12:7, he says, “If your gift is serving others, serve them well.”  Help and service begin with hospitality.  But beyond the gifting, hospitality is a practice commanded of us all.  Paul says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).  And Peter commands, “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:8-10).

But we must be careful.  Scripture warns us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).  And in 2 John 1:10, it says, “If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting.”  Thus it is that Benedict declares that if a guest is “found to be troublesome and disorderly, he must not be admitted to the monastic body but instead, he should even be politely requested to leave, that others may not be infected by his evil life.”  Benedict commands us to receive all guests as Christ Himself (RB 53:1).  But we are also commanded to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:2).  There are many wolves out there in sheep’s clothing.  We need to practice discernment with our hospitality for the sake of protecting the Body of Christ.  

What can we do?  Sadly, hospitality is quickly becoming a lost art in our modern culture.  We welcome and entertain those who agree with us, but shun or outright reject and despise those who differ from us, or who have differing opinions.  We no longer know how to have meaningful discussions.  If you disagree with me, you are my enemy.  We have forgotten how to listen.  We substitute social media for face-to-face chats.  We text instead of talk.  Personal, meaningful contact is quickly disappearing from our culture.  But Benedict says that “Your way of acting should be different from worldly ways.”  We need to break these habits and engage one another in meaningful and loving interaction.  We need to practice hospitality.  We need to re-present Christ to one another and be the Imago Christi.  For we never know when we may be entertaining angels unawares.

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