Hospitality is a Welcome
Hospitality to Others
My interest in hospitality was born several years ago when I came upon the following verse in the Bible from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. —Romans 12:9, NIV
I remember my surprise at seeing “practice hospitality” as the final clause in this lofty list of aspirations which included experiencing joy, seeking patience and having faith. And I noticed the urgency in Paul’s message: he was writing to the religious leaders of a divided Rome, Jews and Gentiles alike, presenting an explanation of the gospel in order to spread the words of his faith and encourage its believers. Hospitality was at the essence of that foundation he was hoping to build.
Other spiritual leaders and religions of the world encourage hospitality in order to sustain their culture and prosper faith. The Prophet Muhammed, for example, loved to eat, insisting on proper etiquette at mealtimes with hospitality at the foundation. “Food enough for two is food enough for four, and food enough for four is food enough for eight,” he is thought to have said, and this lives on in the legendary hospitality practiced by the Bedouin people to this day.
The poet and author, Mark Nepo, writes of the hospitality which we extend to others in his book of wisdom and inspiration, The Book of Awakening:
At heart, hospitality is a helping across a threshold. - Ivan Ilich
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Virgil lovingly guides Dante through the hell of denial and the purgatory of illusion, up to a passage of fire that Dante must cross alone, beyond which he becomes authentic. Earlier in history, Aaron guides his brother Moses off Mount Sinai back into the world, where the prophet must live what God has shown him. Even in Eden, if we can get past the punitive tellings we have heard so often, God ushers Adam and Even to the threshold of the world, offering them the bruised and wondrous life of genuine experience that only those who are human can know.
These are deep examples of spiritual hospitality, of helping kindred spirits further into their living. Truly, the most we can ask of others is for their guidance and comfort on the way — without imposition, design, or thought of reward. This is the hospitality of relationship: for family to help us manifest who we are in the world, for friends to bring us to thresholds of realness, for loved ones to encourage us to cross barriers of our own making into moments of full aliveness.
This is the honest welcoming to table, without judgement of what we eat. Often the purpose of love is for others to guide us, without expectation or interference, as far as they can go, so that we might begin.
I am thankful for Nepo’s beautiful description of hospitality, and profound take on the subject. With teachings and writings such as these enlightening my views on hospitality, I now see it everywhere - in the warm welcome of a server in a neighborhood pub, in the tender care of the nurses at my mother’s assisted living home, in the gentle encouragement of the creative sisters in my weekly writing group — everywhere.
Share with people who are in need, indeed. Practice hospitality.
Hospitality to the Self
Hospitality begins in our spiritual core, where we discover a true self that is deeply connected with divinity. Offering receptivity, reverence, and generosity to the self helps us love and accept ourselves, to heal and discover a deeper, broader, bigger self than we knew we were. This true self … becomes the great source of hospitality within us.
—Nanette Sawyer, Hospitality - The Sacred Art
Hospitality to Spirit
Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four hours of brand new life to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others.
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it We don’t have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.
We can smile, breathe, walk , and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available.
Peace and happiness are available in every moment. Peace is every step.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step
Hospitality At Table
The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.
Naomi Shihab Nye, Red Brocade