© Shutterstock

May 23, 2016

The True Meaning of Philoxenia

If there is one Greek word that everyone should know it is this word–“philoxenia”–literally translated as “friend to the stranger” but a lot deeper than that.

In ancient Greece hospitality was a value ranking high on the list of virtues–there was great respect and honor bestowed from host to guest. There were ancient inns and boarding houses but they were considered lowly. Most people had an organic network of contacts around Greece where a friend of a friend of a friend would show up at your doorstep and the host was dutifully bound to offer hospitality, food, drink and a bath before even any questions were asked to ensure the guest(s) were totally comfortable. The guest too was bound to be courteous, polite and not be burdensome to the host.

Homer’s Illiad and the Bible describe “philoxenia”–and the Trojan war was a result of an abuse and transgression of the bounds of philoxenia when the guest of Sparta’s King Menelaus abducted his wife Helen–a transgression that had to be avenged since the violation was an afront to the gods–hence the derogatory term we ascribe to strangers and foreigners which we fear “Xeni”–a result of being double-crossed.

Philoxenia today can be as simple as a smile, helping a stranded motorist, buying a meal for a homeless person or opening your home to friends and family. Philoxenia is a value that needs to be practiced in the home, at work and is sadly missing in some of the most important places where it should be practiced–in our government.

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Heb 13:1-2)

Categories :