Chapter 53 of the Rule is one of the most-often quoted sections. Benedictines are known even today for their hospitality. Chapter 53 reveals the basis for it.
Hospitality is nothing other than receiving anyone as if that person were Jesus. All we have to do when we meet another person is ask ourselves, “How would I welcome Christ?” and then go and do it.
Included in the Rule are the ideas of hospitality as prayer, peacefulness, humility, companionship, the reading of scripture, foot washing, good food, and a comfortable bed. These qualities are increased when the one received is either poor or a pilgrim—for in such persons Christ is particularly received.
Guests do not “mix and mingle” with the monks, and this is for the welfare of both the visitors and the monastics. Guests are to be given sacred space (literally and figuratively) to meet God while in the monastery. The overarching principle is stated thus: “The house of God should be in the care of wise men who will manage it wisely.”
Having ministered for nearly fifty years, I have been shown all sorts of hospitality—some of it has been stifling and some has been liberating. I know there are different forms of reception. Perhaps that’s why this Chapter in the Rule spoke to my heart.
But more than that, I think it provides and ongoing example of hospitality that renews and strengthens those to whom it is shown. And as far as Benedict was concerned, there was no greater privilege than to be able to show this kind of hospitality to all.