Posts Tagged ‘sacred hospitality’

Baucis & Philemon were a Phrygian elderly couple in Roman Mythology immortalized in Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” for their  life-long love and mutual dedication. It manifests the archetype of a mature love: one so complete, forever fresh, and unequivocal, that it radiates out from the couple as generosity of spirit and hospitality.

According to Ovid, the gods Jupiter and Mercury disguise themselves as impoverished men, calling on both rich and poor alike, to see who would open their homes to them. None among the rich do so, but a poor couple, Baucis & Philemon, though having very little to offer, open their hearts and home to the needs of the strangers that called on them providing food and a place to sleep. The gods later express their intention to destroy the town for having rejected them but to spare the couple, telling them to climb to the summit of a mountain to avert a great flood. The flood then destroys the town and, once the water recedes,  the god’s reconfigure the cottage belonging to Baucis & Philemon into a temple over which they preside for many years together.

The gods further reward  the couple by granting them a wish. In reply, they ask only that they might live together forever and, when either of them reached the point of death, that the other would also die. After their death, the god’s transform them into an interlacing pair of trees; a lime tree and a linden, a symbol of life conjoined into eternity.

In celebrating 34 years of marriage, I am thinking about my relationship with my wife that never once seemed anything but destined. We are entering a time of rediscovering what it means to be a couple with children now grown and on their own. It is a time of re-committment to our intent to grow old together. Neither of us wants to outlive the other. Our marriage makes all of life special.

One of my great pleasures is to host an evening of friends and relatives: a time to break bread together and tell stories. Offering hospitality is a natural outgrowth of a deep and abiding love that never ages regardless of the years. There is a sacred purpose in extending the kindness that bubbles over from hearts aroused by unflinching commitment and affection.

Hospitality is a wonderful practice. It invites others into the hearth of love, into a home made warm by a romance strengthened by time with unshakeable roots. Hospitality is also a feature of many monastic communities, most notably, the Order of Friars Minor ( i.e., the Franciscans). Authentic generosity of spirit is a hallmark of true love. It is the human expression of the Beloved’s love for us. It is the sharing of bonds that exist before time and well beyond it. It affirms absolute vows and advances the human spirit to the level of divine alchemy.

The offering of gifts at the altars of world religious traditions epitomizes mature love and the higher virtues of human consciousness. We make offerings to the One we love and, in doing so, enter into mystical intimacy and a transcendent embrace.

When next you offer hospitality, I recommend a moment’s thought while preparing for it about what it spiritually represents. There is a touch of the miraculous and a taste of Eden in it.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »