Sunday, October 1, 2017

Traditions of Hospitality


Many cultures have strong traditions of hospitality reinforced by legends of gods, goddesses, and angels disguised as mortals visiting people. 

For example, when Nausicaa found Odysseus washed up on the shore, she told him "Odysseus, you shall not lack for clothing nor anything else, of those gifts which should befall the unhappy suppliant on his arrival" (6.191-193).  Nausicaa cared for Odysseus because it was a sacred duty to treat those in need as one would treat a god. 

The two words, host and guest are derived from the same Indo-European root word and are viewed as inseparable parts of the same reciprocal relationship.  In Middle Eastern cultures hospitality is also considered a sacred duty and honor.  Nomadic tribes in desert environments depended upon one another for survival. 

Recognition of interdependence is at the heart of Jewish, Christian and Islamic practices that cultivate a spirit of hospitality. Offering hospitality to a stranger is a sacred act because it is a reflection of God who is all gracious, merciful and generous.  The holiness of hospitality was codified in religious statutes within the Mosaic Laws. 

The parables of Jesus Christ teach how humanity ought to treat strangers and sojourners.  This is not simply a matter of the rich justly providing for those who are less fortunate.  Nor is it a call to set up a business that provides hospitality for profit.  All are expected to share from what they have in order make strangers feel welcome.