Word & Image

The Little Stranger

By Anna Mudd

Drawings of feet being washed and fruit being offered, with handwritten text: In classical Greek tradition, xenia and theoxenia are the obligation of hospitality. In her book

Drawing of figure with suitcases showing up at the door, with handwritten text: The concept of the stranger is central to this practice. The most radical element is also the most essential: "The code of xenia rests on the fact that the host must be willing to take a guest into his household and take care of him before he has any idea who he is." And we see the stranger arrive on doorsteps in the stories and codes of religious community as well. I don't know if the Catholic or anarchist family members about which my aunt wrote would be familiar with Matthew 25 or Hebrews 13, but they certainly would have recognized the possibility of entertaining angels in disguise.


Drawing of a fetus curled up tight and an a door open to a starry expanse, with handwritten text: While the closest of kin, babies are also in a sense the most essential kind of stranger - arriving at our door unknown to anyone in this world, and knowing nothing of this world themselves. Perhaps this code of xenia, so deeply woven into communities within and across terrestrial borders, not only connects the fabric of our own social worlds, but allows us to practice for thi smost elemental moment of welcome. Annd Mudd, MTS '09, works in global studies outreach and blogs at drawmedy.wordpress.com.


Please follow our Commentary Guidelines when engaging in discussion on this site.