Waiting in Joyful Hope for the Guest. (by Nic Cortez)

Over the last couple of years before coming to St. Patrick, I have been studying for a Master’s Degree in Theology at St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota, which is also a Benedictine Monastery. No student attends St. John’s without learning a bit about the Rule of St. Benedict, the code by which all Benedictine monks are called to form their lives. Right from day one of orientation, students are encouraged to reflect on this excerpt from chapter 53 of the Rule of St. Benedict regarding the reception of guests: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35) (C53.1).

This idea struck me immediately and it has been instrumental in the development of my faith life. When we encounter someone, friend or stranger, we are to treat them with the respect and dignity with which we would treat Christ. What a radical form of hospitality, that asks us to be ready to treat those we meet with kindness, to be willing to minister to them with care, and to will the good for them in our words and actions.

In a world that is filled with hatred and distrust, moving so quickly that it almost doesn’t seem worth the time to care, it’s certainly not easy to adopt a mindset of seeing Christ in the stranger, and it won’t simply happen overnight. It takes a daily effort of trying our best to practice receiving those whom we encounter as we would receive Christ in order for us to grow into doing so by nature. But isn’t that exactly what Advent is? If Advent is the season of preparing to receive Christ when we encounter him at his coming, and we are called to receive others as Christ, isn’t Advent also the season of preparing to receive all those whom we encounter on our way in a like manner? Think about how that might affect our perception of Christmas as well. If at Christmas we celebrate the arrival of Christ with joy in our hearts, isn’t Christmas also a time for remembering to take joy in those whom we meet and whom we serve? So as we continue waiting in hope for the joy of Christmas, I hope you will join me in pondering what it means for us to wait in hope and joyous anticipation of being present to and serving the people whom we will encounter in our lives.

– Nic