Venit Hospes, Venit Christus
by Lisa Lewellen, Director of Membership & Volunteers
If you are like me, the first time I read this statement, I wasn’t sure what it meant—and I certainly didn't know how to pronounce it! The Latin quote Venit hospes, venit Christus by St. Benedict has a simple translation with a powerful meaning:
“When a guest comes, Christ comes.”
I would love to say that as I heard the translation, my mind connected quickly to its meaning and purpose and I was forever changed in that moment. Not exactly. The quote was one that I very much needed to hear—it gave me that feeling that I didn’t want to overlook it. As the Director of Membership & Volunteers, I certainly didn’t want to miss a message regarding guests! I reread it several times, but still found myself wondering what it meant. So I set out as most do, and began some Google-driven research.
Venit hospes, venit Christus was part of a lesson in hospitality taught by Saint Benedict (480-547 AD). His monks and priests were known throughout the centuries for providing warm welcomes to many strangers and travelers in their monasteries. They focused on what we would call today a "Hospitality 101" lesson: when we receive a guest, we should receive them as if they were Jesus Himself, directly in front of us. I’m sure you are shaking your head as I did, saying, “Absolutely! Oh, I totally do!” But do we, really?
In my role at LCC, I am always reviewing how we can continue to make others feel welcome, like a part of the family, and find ways to make a deep impact by being the hands and feet of Jesus to them. In my research, I wanted to find the true motive behind it. Was it to help others feel warm and fuzzy with a cheerful hello, or simply answer questions? Was it to give directions to the Café,
or a firm handshake to welcome a guest—almost a surface level of hospitality? Was there something deeper?
Let me introduce you to radical hospitality.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’”
- Matthew 25:34-35 (ESV)
Radical hospitality takes our serving to an even deeper level; think of it as an add-on to what we do as we serve guests. It’s a heart-depth investment. It’s hospitality from the inside of us that shows just how much we value and care for a guest, with one glaring difference: treating them as if they were Jesus...right in front of us.
In Luke 24: 13-16, we find the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who although were so saddened about Jesus’ crucifixion, did not notice who was walking alongside them. Verse 16 says, “But their eyes didn’t even recognize Him.” They had traveled, learned, and lived life with Him, yet were so distracted with grief that they failed to see Him. Many times, we too can fail to see Jesus in those right in front of us, especially when we choose to focus on ourselves.
I quickly realized that I needed to work on inviting the Holy Spirit to give me eyes and ears like Jesus, and the courage to act like Him. I knew this would help me take serving to that deeper, heart-depth level. It’s a level that I believe we, both as believers and volunteers at LCC, have truly been called to experience and be forever changed. What we are gifted to see and be part of is what so many other churches and communities pray to even glimpse. As His chosen people, we are called to be more than great hosts. We are called to actually be Christ to all and see all as Christ. We are called to be difference-makers; clothed in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3: 10-17 NLT)
My prayer is that our eyes will see all the places Christ is in our world. And more so, that we would see the opportunity we have to view each guest as Christ and act on it, walking through any aspect of our lives with a venit hospes, venit Christus mindset. Seeing people as Jesus Himself.
That’s radical hospitality.