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.
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
For they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.
God bless the poor,
God bless the sick
And bless our human race
God bless our food
God bless our drink
All homes, O God embrace.
The Biblical call to hospitality
The Celts had the value of “heroic hospitality” even before hospitality, and that may be why they were able to embrace the call to hospitality found in the Bible.
There are many times that we are called to practice Hospitality in the NT.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.