This Photo is from my friend Joyce Smith. “Here is a picture of my unexpected visitor who arrived on my garden fence the other morning. My books suggest she is a red-legged Partridge who may have flew down from Upshire. With my love and prayers. Joyce.
Joyce notes that it is a rare visitor to her garden so an unexpected surprise.
Her chosen caption is As each new day dawns, let us be open to the joy of the unexpected.
Reflection on this took me into the area of hospitality, both in the giving and receiving of it. My natural starting point for this is the Rule of St. Benedict in which he wrote:
All visitors who call are to be welcomed as if they were Christ, for he will one day say: I was a stranger and you took me in (Mt 25).
Benedict then sets down how guests should be received and how they should be treated. Others in the monastic tradition have similar approaches to receiving guests as reflections of Jesus.
No doubt they were mindful of what the epistle to the Hebrews calls entertaining angels unawares – without knowing it. (Hb 13:1)
By extension the seeing of Christ in others is commended to all of us who profess the Christian faith (and is something other religions express too, in their own way). The general thought is that we are to see Christ in each other because we are striving to be Christ-like and so reflect him in who we are.
That’s not always easy to do. The red legged Partridge is very beautiful and we can easily see that she is a reflection of the breathtaking beauty of Creation. I’m think that if she had been a magpie (or even worse, a wasp!) I might have found it more difficult.
It’s the same with some humans too, though those who seek to find goodness and beauty in people will no doubt succeed.
It was a short hop in my thinking to consider the plight of the refugees. At present because of the conflicts in our world, there are many seeking shelter and safety. Through absolutely no fault of their own they are arriving in other places from their own countries. They have lost everything. They are, our unexpected visitors. How do we welcome them?
The numbers are overwhelming and it is hard for us not to be fearful and protective of our way of life. They are different in some ways in culture and even have differing values though we can all learn so much from each other if we but listen and share love.
The immediate group of ‘visitors’ , are the boat people, crossing the channel in dangerous and life-threatening conditions.
When I was thinking of their plight, other ‘boat people’, who fled their own country came to mind. They too travelled across a difficult sea, seeking a less harsh way of life. I speak of the flood of Irish immigrants to America and England in the 18th and 19th centuries, either driven out by the Great Famine, or political upheaval. Amongst them were some direct relatives of mine.
Other ‘boat people’ were the Windrush generation, much more recently. Actually, because we live on an Island, most of our ancestors came by boat to dwell here.
They were either conquerors like the Romans, Vikings, Danes or they were part of the great trek which brought tribes in waves along the Indo-European trail. (I draw a veil over the many lands which have been harshly occupied by others who thirsted for dominance, exploitation and power!)
Today, of course it is Syrians, Lebanese, Afghans, people from Yemen as well as some Africans, who are on the move. Our planet has always been a nomadic place and few of us can say that our ancestors and even our compatriots were settled people. The people who can claim true British descent are probably only those in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and that area from which we take our name, Brittany.
Somehow the rest of us sort of landed up here as unexpected visitors.
Sadly, many asre currently unwanted.
I’m just grateful, on behalf of my family past and present, that we didn’t have people in authority whose treatment of the various boat people has little to show St Benedict and others that we really do welcome people as if they were Christ.
So I thank Joyce for giving me some hope. Her unexpected visitor can serve to open our hearts to another, more kind and caring approach. Joyce welcomed this stranger with Joy. There was also delight because, like all visitors the Partridge brought a gift. She came with a beautiful reminder of the joy of God’s creation. We even see the pinky-red flowers behind her which forms a nature-filled welcome. If we pause, embrace the moment, give thanks for the ‘otherness’, then we might just catch a glimpse of what the poet Gerald Manly Hopkins calls the grandeur of God.
If we seek to find that grandeur of God, maybe dazzlingly, maybe dimly, we will take a step towards meeting Him in others and in Nature. That perception can itself mightily change our world. I say ‘our’ world but I end with saying: Thank You to the red-legged Partridge for popping by to share her World with us.