The Home Virtues (Continued)-Hospitality, Holiness, And Innocence Of Conversation.
Let each one inquire in the Church for the poor and the stranger; and when he meets them, let him invite them to his house; for with the poor man Christ will enter it. He who entertains a stranger, entertains Christ. The glory of a Christian is to receive strangers and pilgrims, and to have at his table the poor, the widow and the orphan. ST. EPHREM, De Amore Pauperurn.
The Christian religion, beside inheriting all the divine legislation of preceding ages, and consecrating all that was ennobling and purifying in public and private life, perfected every virtue practiced by Jew and Gentile by assigning to each a supernatural motive and by assisting the weakness of nature with most powerful graces.
Doubtless in the most ancient times, men, wherever they chanced to live, were not altogether unmindful of their being sprung from the same parents, and the first impulse of nature urged them to open their house to the stranger as to a brother, one who was their own flesh and blood. In the patriarchal ages we find a higher motive superadded to that of common brotherhood: that to receive the stranger, was to discharge a debt due to God himself that to shut him out was, possibly, to close one’s door against the Deity hi disguise. Abraham and his nephew Lot gave hospitality to angels disguised in human form, and were rewarded, the former by the birth of Isaac, the latter by being saved with his family from the terrible destruction in which Sodom and the neighboring cities were involved.
Not dissimilar was the reward divinely granted to the poor pagan widow of Sarephta who harbored and fed the famished and fugitive prophet Elias, and to the wealthy lady of Sunam who sheltered Elisaeus. Their generous hospitality was rewarded by the restoring to life of the only son of each.
But in the gospel, Martha and Mary made their home the resting-place of the Incarnate God, and their hospitality was accompanied by a public and unhesitating confession of their Guest’s divinity, and that, too, at a time when he was most opposed and persecuted by the leading men of the nation. Not only were they, also, rewarded by the restoration to life of their dead brother, but they had the further recompense of becoming the apostles of the Divine Master.
This was, moreover, the return made by Him to his Mother’s cousin, Mary Salome, mother of St. James the Elder and St. John the Apostle, for the hospitality so generously bestowed on Mary, after the breaking up of her own home at Nazareth. The same may be said of that other Mary, the sister of the apostle St. Barnabas, and the mother of another apostle, John-Mark. It is the common tradition that her house was that hi which our Lord celebrated the last Supper, hi which the Blessed Virgin found a refuge during the interval between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and in which the apostles and disciples were wont to assemble till the Holy Ghost came down on them.
Certain it is that there the faithful were wont to meet with Peter and the other apostles till after the martyrdom of St. Stephen and St. James, the imprisonment and miraculous liberation of St. Peter, and the visit made to him by St. Paul after the latter’s conversion. Her home was the common home of the infant church of Jerusalem, and, as tradition affirms, the first Christian church in that city. This generous mother’s hospitality was rewarded by seeing both her brother and her son called to the glorious labors and perils of the apostleship.
Thenceforward, the bestowing hospitality was for the mistress of a Christian household to receive Christ himself, the God of Charity, in the person of every guest who crossed her threshold, be he rich or poor, kinsman or stranger, friend or foe, sick or loathsome, the holiest of men or the most abandoned of sinners.
But we must reserve for another place the rules of hospitality to be observed by the mistress of the home and all her dependents. We are at present only pointing, out the distinctive character and the ideal of Christian hospitality.
A holy house is one in which God is truly King; in which he reigns supreme over the minds and hearts of the inmates; in which every word and act honors his name. One feels on entering such a house, nay, even on approaching it, that the very atmosphere within and without is laden with holy and heavenly influences. Modern authors have written elegantly and eloquently about the home life which was the source of all domestic virtues and all public greatness in the powerful nations of antiquity. They describe, in every household, in the poor man’s cabin as well as in the palace, that altar set apart for family worship, on which the sacred fire was scrupulously watched and kept alive night and day. No one ever went forth from the house without first kneeling at that altar and paying reverence to the divinity of the place, and no one, on returning, ever saluted his dearest ones before doing homage there. There, too, at night the household met for prayer and adoration, and there again with the dawn they knelt together to beg on the labors of the day before them the blessing of the deity worshiped by their fathers.
This altar and this undying fire were regarded as a something so holy that only the most precious wood and the purest material was employed to feed the flame. Nothing filthy or defiled was permitted to approach the spot; and every indecent word uttered or act committed near it was deemed a sacrilege. This hearth-altar, or hearth-fire, as it was called, was symbolical of the fate of the family. If it was neglected and allowed to die out, this was deemed an irreparable calamity foreboding the ruin of the home and the extinction of the race.
In the Christian home it is the flame of piety, ardent love for God, and charity toward the neighbor, which constitutes the hearth-fire that should ever bum bright. Old Catholic homeshow many of our readers will remember it? were wont to have the cross placed outside as a symbol of the love for the Crucified which ruled all hearts within; and in the interior his name, as well as his image could be seen on almost every wall, informing the stranger-guest that he was in the house of the common Parent, and in the midst of dear brethren.
And how many of us may also remember the poor but cleanly cottage of the laborer, or the narrow room of city families, on whose bare but white walls there was no ornament but the crucifix, and no glory but that of the Holy Name written there as a seal of predestination?
Where the fire of divine love is fed as carefully, and the mother and her daughters watch as jealously as the Roman matrons and maidens of old that its flame shall never be extinguished, there is little fear that any conversation but what is “innocent” shall prevail. Purity and charity are the twin-lights of every home deserving of God’s best blessing and man’s heartfelt veneration.
What The Home Ought Not To Be
The Spaniards say, “Shut the door and the Devil passes by;” the true woman who has read the preceding pages and understood the teaching conveyed therein, will know how to preserve her home-sanctuary from evil. It is, comparatively, an easy task to cultivate and cherish in one’s own life and hi the souls of those nearest and dearest to one, all the sweet virtues and holy habits indicated above, or connected with true piety. But how hard it is, when once evil habits have been formed, to resist or reform them! There are certain horrible skin diseases to which persons of the purest blood and most refined nature are most liable. And the terrible poison, sometimes caught by a breath or a touch of the hand, once deposited in blood hitherto untainted, will spread instantaneously, and commit the most fearful ravages.
So is it with souls highly privileged: a single voluntary act of sin may be followed by such a state of spiritual leprosy, that all their former beauty and glory appear changed into hideous deformity and seemingly incurable corruption.
Be careful to keep evil far away from the hearts of your dear ones; and close and bar the door of your home at all times, when you know that wickedness is abroad in the street or on the highway. Keep out the fatal influences which might weaken or destroy the precious boon of Christian faith in your household; bar and bolt your door against uncharitableness, immodesty, and that odious spirit of irreverence toward age, authority, and all that our fathers have taught us to respect and love.
And, 0 women who read this, learn here how to make your home, though never so poor and bare, lovely to your dear ones and an object of respect and envy to all who know you. This you shall be taught in the next chapter.