“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (that’s from the King James translation of Hebrews 13:2).
More recent translations say that we should show hospitality to strangers because some of those strangers might just be messengers from God: they could be angels!
The illustration is from Season of Angels, and the angel there in the back, that others don't yet recognize, is Raphael.
Since I was raised to understand that the basis of hospitality was food, I want to talk today about what foods you and your children could fix for Michaelmas, also known as the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, in late Septmeber. You can practice these foods ahead of time to see if you and the children like them.
An ancient tradition said that blackberries shouldn't be eaten after Michaelmas. Blackberries tend to ferment or mildew in early October, but tradition insists that the berries turn bad because the Devil spat (or urinated) on them when he landed in a bramble bush after Michael threw him out of heaven on this date. So blackberries are often included as part of a meal on this day, to be eaten up by day's end.
Substituting blackberries in my grandmother Ruth Hanford's blueberry muffin recipe would be yummy. (see the July 15 post "Suffering, Joy, and Blueberry Muffins:" <http://familyfaithincyberspace.blogspot.com/2013/07/suffering-joy-and-blueberry-muffins.html>) Finishing up a batch of blackberry muffins by the end of a day sounds like a rather nice injunction.
Then there's the main course:
In Season of Angels, the Archangel Raphael saves Tobias's life when "a huge and fearsome fish leaped up from the water to swallow the boy." They ended up eating the fish for supper, so fixing a favorite fish dish would be appropriate for the occasion. If you don't have one, here's an incredibly easy tuna casserole that looks like it has worms in it, much to the delight of children. All you do is heat the oven to 350 degrees, empty the contents of the following five cans into a bowl, mix, pour into a small casserole dish, crumble potato chips on top, and bake for 30 minutes: one can of tunafish, one can of cream of mushroom soup, one can of cream of chicken soup, one can of evaporated milk, and one can of Chinese noodles (these are what end up looking like worms).
If you feel wildly ambitious, you could opt instead to roast a goose. A 15th Century tradition said that eating goose on Michaelmas brought financial luck for the year, because geese were so plentiful in late September.
Other foods you could have on the table for Michaelmas include sliced apples to dip in honey (a Jewish custom for this time of year), figs, dates, and raisins as reminders of the food Tobias would have carried on his journey, and olives and almonds which are native to Israel.
For dessert, angel food cake, of course! I have a particular fondness for angel food trifle because not only is it delicious, but an angel food trifle recipe is actually what my son and his wife read back and forth to each other at their wedding rehearsal, rather than giving away the vows they had each written for the wedding itself. A trifle is soaked in a fair amount of sherry, so you may prefer plain angel food cake topped with whipped cream; having the children help with the whipping is a good lesson in the power of that which is invisible as air turns the liquid cream to something more solid.
One of the people I've always named as an angel in my life was a young English seminarian named Paul who was living in the tower of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem when my husband and I arrived at the guesthouse there back in 1997. We arrived exhausted from a night and a day of travel, thinking we might just collapse into bed and wait till the next day to explore the Old City, but Paul saw us, came down from his tower, and said, "I'll take you there." So we went with him, down Nablus Road, through the Damascus Gate, and through the winding streets to a quiet outdoor restaurant where we had a supper of falafel and beer. "You can't get lost in the Old City," he told us. "Eventually a street will lead you to the city wall, and a gate, and once outside you can just walk the perimeter until you find the Damascus Gate and Nablus Road." Paul's physically leading us into the Old City and then telling us, "You can't get lost" gave us the city, along with a sense of security in a strange place. For me, falafel is the bread of angels. I might add that to my own list of foods for Michaelmas.
Season of Angels, of course, tells another story of angelic companionship: how the Archangel Raphael accompanies young Tobias on a journey that involves a lot more than a simple supper in Jerusalem; their journey includes a fearsome fish, a beautiful girl, a bag of silver, and a wicked demon. To have the story on hand for Michaelmas, you can preorder the book -- it's due in the warehouse any day -- at <http://www.forwardmovement.org/Products/2179/season-of-angels.aspx>.