Hosting gatherings of family and friends occurs frequently during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and this social aspect of the season is one I find richly rewarding.  We are blessed to have all of our extended family nearby to create these opportunities regularly.  In his Rule for monastic life, St. Benedict instructs that “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, who said: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’” (Mt 25:35).  All guests – a tall order sometimes.

However, following Christine Paintner’s 7-day Monk in the World e-course this fall brought me a fuller understanding of hospitality that is especially meaningful at this time of year.  She writes in the second day’s guide, “I also believe that Benedict meant to extend this hospitality within ourselves and seek out the stranger who knocks within our hearts – that part of ourselves that has been neglected or shut out.  These inner and outer acts of hospitality are intimately connected.  As we grow in compassion for the places within which challenge us, we are able to extend that compassion toward others.  The more we grow intimate with our own places of weakness or unlived longings, the more we can accept these in others.”

In response to this reflection, I composed the following Prayer for Hospitality:  God of Infinite Compassion, You transcend time and space, yet reside in the depth of my being. Well up like a hot spring beneath layers of rock, breaking through, opening up  space, graciously warming, soothing, healing, and welcoming from within.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving and start of Advent!

Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.  The image is of the stained glass skylight above the DeSoto Fountain at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.