“Perhaps in their humblest guise
We entertain angels, all unaware.
Great things from small acts do grow
When we kind hospitality show.
English is a confusing language – words that look similar often have very different etymologies. Host can mean thousands of people or angel-armies or stars in the skies. Host can refer to the communion bread, Christ as the sacrifice who hosts and nourishes us through the sacrament of his body. And host can mean to open one’s home and cupboard to share what we have with those we love and befriend.
Ontario’s pandemic restrictions have eased somewhat in Stage 3, and it is such a joy to be able to prepare meals, put crisp clean linens on beds, bake tasty treats that can be shared with others. And to receive hospitality myself, the tea-tray on the patio table with fresh-baked chocolate zucchini bread, gifts that feel like luxuries after months of social isolation.
Our local theatre is once again in need of billets for its actors and stage crew, and it feels good to share our home in this way. When we built this house in 2010, it was never intended to be for just our own use. Restrictions will mean smaller audiences for the actors, but their joy is in their craft, and we can be a small part of making this possible for our community.
Over time, I begin to more fully understand that my real Host is the God who provided the harvest bounty I can share with others. I can open the door to my home, because I have been given a home. We are all guests on this earth God created as our habitat, none of us entitled to anything. There is a sacred communion in this providential Hosting, this earth-home and its harvest shared with thousands of others.
The stressful times when we tried to outdo ourselves and others in preparing for guests have gone, and replacing that is much more joyful and relaxed attitude. People matter far more than perfection.
In the Biblical story account, sisters Mary and Martha were hosting Jesus at their home. But Martha, busily banging pots and pans in her kitchen preparations, resenting her sister, had lost sight of what was really important to her guest. Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, gave him the gift of presence, and was blessed in turn by what she heard. (Although I think I would have left her the clean-up!)
Whether host or guest, all good gifts are meant to be savoured and enjoyed. Meals together are nourishing to body and soul and times together are priceless.
Come in the evening, or come in the morning,
Come when you’re looked for, or come without warning.
A warm welcome you’ll always find here before you,
And please enjoy our company, we do implore you.
(adapted from “A Welcome, Thomas O. Davis)