The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 53, part 1
Regarding receiving the unknown guest into the midst of the community, Sr. Joan writes,
The message to the stranger is clear: Come right in and disturb our perfect lives. You are Christ for us today. And to assure us all, guest and monastic alike, that this hospitality is an act of God that we are undertaking, the community and the guest pray together first and then extend the kiss of welcome so that it is understood that our welcome is not based on human measurements alone: we like you, we're impressed with you, you look like our kind, you're clean and scrubbed and minty-breathed and worthy of our attention.
There are many ways in which we all have occasion to practice the essence of this hospitality our Father Benedict describes, and many ways that we can forsake it. When it comes to being hospitable to the poor, in whom Christ is "especially" received, a reflection from the Rev. Robert Berra, our good friend, is helpful to consider:
Every time I see people try to weasel out of a charitable human spirit, I remember that an antidote to it is found in --of all places-- the Christian Patristic Fathers. Gregory Nazienzen, a bishop in the 370s, confronted reasons people give to not help the poor, reasons that are as familiar to us as they were to Gregory: some people deserve to be poor, they brought it upon themselves, there is "not enough", or it's a punishment from God. Gregory will have none of it. In fact, in the face of these objections, service to the poor is necessary so that we might "restrain those who have such an attitude towards [the poor], and [that we] might not give in to their foolish arguments, making cruelty into a law turned against our very selves.
St. John of Damascus is known as "the last of the Fathers" (d. 750) and is best known for his role in defending the use of icons against the iconoclasts of his day. St. John's argument focused upon the implications of Christ's Incarnation, contending that Christ has made visible what was previously invisible, therefore the visible has been sanctified. If this argument applies to icons, through which it is believed heavenly realities can be viewed and venerated, how much more does it apply to the poor and needy we encounter?