Chapter 53 of the Rule of St Benedict is full of hospitable directions both for guests who come to the monastery and, in St Benedict’s directions for the distribution of work, for the monastery residents themselves.
But there is an assumption that St Benedict makes in almost offhand way. He is saying something about guests, then pauses to say, “—and monasteries are never without them—” and goes on again with his principal thought.
The take-home from that brief interlude is that we in the monastery do not exist for ourselves alone, or for the maintenance of a self-chosen ‘contemplative lifestyle’. Yes, a monastery and its grounds are a large stethoscope allowing us to hear the heartbeat of God, but that living heartbeat comes to us most bodily, most especially, in our guests and visitors, and in our neighbors, the ones we know and the ones we don’t.
No monastery on earth exists primarily for itself—and the same could be said of any parish, any congregation. By dint of the very Incarnation of God, we must be a missionary people, as God in God’s amazing hospitality is. In our case the people mostly come to us, but we also meet them in the ordinary round of errands and what-not.
We here have received our neighbors’ enormous trust and goodwill. Let us live so as to be worthy of the endeavor that God has set us, and the trust our neighbors, and God, have in us.