So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10, ESV)
Home and hospitality are on my mind because my students and I recently finished Jane Austen’s Emma and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
What would Emma be without its visits, its dinners, and teas? Carriages, pork, and apples inspire Miss Bates to declare, “our lot is cast in a goodly heritage.” The novel portrays how domestic resources can foster unity and happiness (charity), or inspire snobbish individuality and superiority (when characters give in to the sin of superbia or pride).
Hospitality plays no less a role in A Tale of Two Cities, where Sidney Carton’s acceptance within the Darnay-Manette household marks a new beginning for him. Carton ultimately sees his sacrifice in Paris as an act which not only protects, but unites him to that household.
Of my own graduate days, there is no kindness for which I am more thankful than that of being welcomed into the homes of my peers and instructors.
Indeed, I would not be a Christian today if not for such hospitality. I am grateful and indebted to all those families and individuals who opened up their doors and their hearts to me. Such visits reminded me that life was going on outside the texts, the walls, the ambitions, and the anxieties of the university.
Some of those homes were filled with the sounds of children, but not all. Some were richly arrayed, but others were quite humble. Whatever their condition, being welcomed-in became for me an image and experience of something both ordinary and transcendent.
Inside someone’s home, one is confronted with those realities meant to frame and invigorate life. Paradoxically, it is in the presence of such things that deeper, transcendent longings may be acutely felt and nurtured. An evening spent chatting upon someone’s couch or by a hearth are worth more to me than many hundreds of hours in the classroom or library. Such experiences put me in touch with what the Christian philosopher Gabriel Marcel called the “exigencies” of our existence. For Marcel, an exigency is a necessity of life. One such necessity is signified by our longing for transcendence, a longing brought surprisingly home to me in domestic hospitality.
The home represents the longing for, and partly the realization of family, unity, peace, acceptance, and love. It represents an area of our existence which is intended to supersede and surpass the utility and purposiveness of our busy lives. Despite all the deficiencies and failures of any home, the household yet remains a sign of hope. It is the shire of the imagination, and one day we shall spend eternity in the true and unfading Country.
In Christ, we are made members of the household of faith, and in Him we begin to realize the promise of Divine hospitality. Domestic hospitality is one powerful way to invite each other into such remembrance.
- What are your memories of being welcomed-in?
- Are there people you might invite for a visit, perhaps to partake of a simple meal?
Father, I thank you for bringing me into your Trinitarian Family and making me a member of the household of faith. I thank you also for all the kindnesses and mercies I have received from your people throughout the years. Bless them Lord. And if it is your will, may I find opportunity to invite others into my own home. May I continue to recognize and delight in such opportunity, experiencing and displaying the welcome I have received in you more and more profoundly. In doing so, may I show forth greater hospitality to others, to the end that our thanksgiving might abound to your glory. Amen.