Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hospitality to God

In looking through some of the things I have written over the years to "think out" different things that I was experiencing/thinking or for personal study, I discovered the following reflection.  With this text, written over a half dozen years ago, I share with you some of my own experience of journeying to the Lord.  I pray it will be of a help to you.

            “I’m home.”  These words are uttered by many who pass through the doors of our retreat house and they make a very definite statement.  For those of us who provide a sacred space where people come aside to seek Christ, it is a very humbling reality that we, by our lives, help create a space where people feel at home.  The question then becomes, “What do they personally mean by, ‘I’m home’?”

            Are they perhaps expressing a personal reality of what they experience interiorly in coming aside to spend time with God?  Are they themselves making room in their lives in a radical way to allow God to enter and touch their hearts with His grace, His presence?  Why do they choose to come to a monastic retreat house?  What makes it such a special meeting place with God?

            Having met my monastic community first as a retreatant, I have experienced this reality of being able to say, “I’m home.”  My life was very full with work, family, friends, and activities.  Yet, it was important to me to come aside twice a year for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. 

            The easiest way to explain it is simply to say that I needed time and a sacred space in which to allow my relationship with God to grow and mature.  Did I realize that I was spending time at a monastery?  No.  Did I realize that the community was welcoming me in as Christ?  Again, no.  However, being a recipient of the community’s hospitality enabled me to experience in an awesome way Christ’s presence.

            What was it I experienced from the Sisters when I came?  Quite simply, warm hospitality.  This hospitality sprung from the community’s welcoming each person as Christ.  One of the Sisters would greet me when I arrived.  There were Sisters in the kitchen and dining room providing a warm, welcoming space where I felt like an honored guest.  But there was still more.  It was something mysterious that made the buildings and grounds holy. 

After a few retreats the mystery was not solved but better understood.  I just was not coming to a retreat house, I was coming to the home of these monastic women to seek God in a deeper way.  I was making space in my heart for God to enter and live -- in short, I was making a home for God in my life.

            Coming to know the monastic community and starting to share in the lives of these women in a different way as a volunteer -- and later vocation guest leading to becoming one of these monastic women -- I discovered a radical way of living.

            This radical way of living is what we Benedictines are called to live by our daily lives.  By making a “home” for Christ in our hearts, we create an atmosphere that others will find welcoming.  What I experience in welcoming Christ into my life, I in turn pass on to those whom I meet:  community members, guests, family and friends, retreatants and even the stranger.  My life becomes a lived witness to Christ and I make Him present to a world searching for something to fill the void.

            The answer to the question of what is meant by “I’m home” has a different meaning for each individual who utters these words. Perhaps one the best images I know of welcoming Christ is Sallman’s Christ at Heart’s Door.  Christ is at the door of each our hearts; coming aside to a sacred space we learn how to open the door and invite Him in. 

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