Benedict of Nursia: Every Kindness

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For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. Matthew 25:35

“Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: “I was a stranger and you took Me in” (Matthew 25:35). And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those “of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10) and to wayfarers.

When, therefore, a guest is announced, let him be met by the superior and the brethren with every mark of charity. And let them first pray together, and then let them associate with one another in peace. This kiss of peace should not be given before a prayer hath first been said, on account of satanic deception. In the greeting let all humility be shown to the guests, whether coming or going; with the head bowed down or the whole body prostrate on the ground, let Christ be adored in them as He is also received.

When the guests have been received, let them be accompanied to prayer, and after that let the superior, or whom he shall bid, sit down with them. Let the divine law be read to the guest that he may be edified, after which let every kindness be shown him. Let the fast be broken by the superior in deference to the guest, unless, perchance, it be a day of solemn fast, which cannot be broken. Let the brethren, however, keep the customary fast.

Let the abbot pour the water on the guest’s hands, and let both the abbot and the whole brotherhood wash the feet of all the guests. When they have been washed, let them say this verse: “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” (Psalm 48:9). Let the greatest care be taken, especially in the reception of the poor and travelers, because Christ is received more specially in them; whereas regard for the wealthy itself procureth them respect.”

Benedict of Nursia (480-547) Founder of Twelve Communities and Author of the Rule that governed them. This excerpt is from The Rule of St. Benedict 53.

When Jenni and I arrived in Perth yesterday, pictured above, Jeroen and Eva Bruins, board chair of PeaceWise welcomed us with “every kindness.” They drove us to King’s Park and the Botanic Gardens where we shot this header photo overlooking the CBD (Central Business District). They took us to dip our feet in the Indian Ocean, and they cooked us a delicious meal in their home.

It reminded me of the hospitality extended to the guests in the monastic communities, so I explored the Rule of St. Benedict this morning.

There’s a lot going on in the practices set forth in today’s post. In the Benedictine communities, they wanted everything they did to reflect charity. Also, they regularly practiced prayer and fasting. This helped them learn to set aside their own desires to serve God and others. They allowed those rhythms to be broken on ordinary days because that’s precisely the design of the practices, to teach them to extend hospitality.

What does all this have to do with us and the connection between kindness and generosity?

We cannot show every kindness and extend generosity without first realizing that all we have came to us because of God’s grace or charity. This positions us to be charitable. Thus, we are not only be openhanded with that which we possess, but we use our hands to serve others and even wash their feet. And, notice that serves flows from the top. It’s not the novices in the monastery washing the feet of guests. It’s the abbot.

Just like this kind board chair in Perth extended us every kindness upon our arrival, do the same for those who knock on your door. Need practice? We all do. That’s what the disciplines in the monastery were all about, and for us in modern times, that’s what Lent is all about. We train ourselves to fast from things, to give to thee needy, and to pray for others.

Start thinking about what your Lenten disciplines will be for this year as Lent begins on 6 March 2019.