This book presents a collection of early Christian texts regarding hospitality and its practices. The range of experts both in time and space shows just how central a role of hospitality played in Christian life throughout the early centuries. Yet this book is not a set of instructions for hospitality, nor does the word "hospitality" even appear in many of these excerpts, and this in itself is good cause for reflection for us today. The excerpts come from letters, diary accounts, instructions, sermons, travelogues, and community records and rules. They are windows into a world of early communities that saw it as their moral duty and also privilege to care for the sick, to safeguard the pilgrim, and to host the stranger. Abram and Sarai hosting the three angels at Oaks of Mamre, and Jesus and his disciples feeding the crowds are two familiar biblical examples, but this book also delves into lesser know texts that offer rich insight to those willing to read and then integrate the early fathers' and mothers' wisdom and hospitality into their own lives.
This volume provides an anthology of about 40 primary source documents that describe the work of religious communities that took care of pilgrims and the sick in the late antique and early medieval world. The project identifies letters, diary accounts, instructions, sermons, travelogues, and community records and rules that give us a window into a world of early communities that saw it as their duty and their privilege to care for the sick, to safeguard the pilgrim, and to host the stranger. Each document is placed in historical, geographical, and social context as it contributes to an emerging picture of these communities. The volume addresses the motivations and practices of communities that risked extending hospitality. Why did these communities take great risks for the socially vulnerable? What stake did they have in pilgrims and the sick? What communal experiences supported and sustained both the communities and their audiences? How was hospitality cultivated?
Amy G. Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University and the author of In Her Words and And You Welcomed Me, both published by Abingdon Press.