As I ponder the times, I am struck by the extreme expressions of fear and love. I am also reminded that where there is fear, there is hatred. Where there is love, there is life. A core practice for our times is the practice of hospitality. As a intentional practice, hospitality calls us to welcome the stranger on a daily basis.
Henri Nouwen believes that the paradox of hospitality is that it calls us “to create an emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness, where strangers can enter and discover themselves created free, free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.” Clearly, the practice of hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his or her own.
One Greek word incorporates a profound truth: xenos , the word that means stranger, also means guest and host. This one word signals the essential mutuality that is at the heart of hospitality. Think of our language’s use of xenos: philoxenia—hospitality, a love of guest or stranger; and xenophobia— fear of the stranger. We do well to remember both the danger and the need.
This month, spend some time reflecting on Henri Nouwen’s wisdom above. How does the practice of emptying relate to the practice of hospitality? Why is this important? Reflect on the word xenos. How are we called to nurture the stranger, guest and host within that we might welcome the stranger without? And, then set your intention to practice hospitality.
May we be radical in welcoming of the stranger in our midst!