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The Church and the Beehive

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 08, 2009

 As I opened up a hive yesterday, I had a burst of understanding as to why I take so much satisfaction from beekeeping. It's not just the honey-- much as I love it. It's about life.

We've had plenty of pets since we moved to our rural home: dogs and cats and rabbits and chickens and the miscellaneous lame birds and orphan squirrels adopted by our younger children. I love them all. (Well, maybe not the cats... but even they are useful, keeping away some less desirable critters.) I love having living things around our home, and within reason, the more the better. It's an affirmation of life. 

But when it comes to affirming life, none of those other pets can come close to a healthy colony of bees. Open up a hive, and you're always taken aback by the profusion of energy on display: the tens of thousands of busy little creatures. The frames are, as they say, "boiling over" with apian activity. It's a beautiful thing to see.

What's more, all the activity has a purpose. Every bee is doing something useful for the community. They're always busy, utterly dedicated. Instinct calls a bee to do something, and she does it: no shirking, no hesitation, no waiting for further instructions. If we Christians only answered our own vocations so diligently!

And there's another lesson to be learned from the honeybees. As they do their work, they aren't just taking care of their own community. They're also pollinating plants, so that other creatures (like us) will have plenty of flowers and fruits and vegetables. They're storing honey, that lovely substance with a wonderful sweet taste and an extraordinarily stable chemical composition. They're making wax, which might someday burn on an altar. 

Think about it: What other insect rates a mention in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil? 

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