Summary: Hospitality was a Spiritual practice for the Celts, and should be for us too!
Celtic Spirituality of Hospitality Monday, June 16, 2008
Earthed Spirituality, God at the Pub
Distinction between entertaining and hospitality,
- entertaining people is showing off your house, and your cooking abilities to them,
- Hospitality is opening your house to them. – welcoming people into your household
- - Entertaining really centres on self and begs compliments,
- hospitality centres on the other, and on God.
Last week, as we talked about the Trinity, I talked briefly about our need to live in community as a reflection of the God we worship. I would have liked to spend more time on that point – especially the idea of Soul Friend, but you can’t do everything! This week’s topic does flow out of the call to community.
On the retreat we looked at the spiritual practice of solitude, and we talked about what the Celts called “Green Martydom.” Where Irish monks sacrificed human relationships and comforts and headed of into the wilderness to live as hermits. While this may have come naturally to the desert fathers and mothers whom the Celts were emulating, It went against the communal nature and natural hospitality of the Celts.
“The Green Martyrdom had been a failure, both because of the apparently unquenchable Irish tendency to sociability and, perhaps even more important, because of the natural fertility of Ireland itself, which possessed nothing resembling an Egyptian desert and almost no place that did not, with a little foresight, abound in leeks from the garden, poultry, game, salmon and trout and bees.” – Cahill 171
Not only did the land abound with good food, but it also seemed to abound with people who were searching after a closer relationship with God, So a committed saint would wander off to live as a hermit, and sooner or later, people would gather around them as they saw the hermit as an Anam Cara, a Soul Friend who would help them along the journey to intimacy with God! So, instead of a hermitage, a monastery was founded.
Plan of Monastery – Cahill 156
While the Monastery might look a little fortress like, I was actually a very hospitable place – they always had a gate keeper, whose job was not to keep people out, but rather to invite them in, to make sure that they were well looked after and had a place to stay within the enclosure. No one was turned away – from commoner to noble person, and they became the education centers of Europe in the Dark Ages – the universal cities – the universities.
Hospitality was always one of the highest virtues of the monasteries – if the abbot was on a fast, and a visitor came, he would break the fast to eat with the visitor, because hospitality was far more important than any individual spiritual practice.
174 St. Brigid’s grace:
I should like a great lake of finest ale
For the King of kings
I should like a table of the choicest food
For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith
And the food be forgiving love
I should welcome the poor to my feast
For they are God’s children.