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December 7, 2014

Life in Community

Today, on the Feast of St. Ambrose, the Patron Saint of beekeepers, Br. Lawrence offers us a reflection on "Bees" as a symbol for Monastic Life in Community

Monks have been marveling at God’s providence revealed in the honeybee for centuries, and have seen in the lives of bees a reflection of our own monastic life. One of our brother monks cares for a small beehive as a hobby, so that we are able sometimes to enjoy real, local wildflower honey. It is exceedingly delicious. When you visit the bees, it is amazing to see the order and zeal with which they go about their work. If at first glance the bees’ movements appear chaotic, after watching a while one can see recognizable flight patterns to and from the hive. They are never idle and work together, each for the good of the whole. When adding a new comb to a beehive, one does not need to clean it; the bees do it themselves. They repair damage to the hive with materials produced from their own bodies. When they work on a “project,” the bees are amazingly specialized in their labor, yet any individual bee’s job can change with the needs of the hive. Most importantly, bees sustain their hives by gathering pollen from the all the flowers growing around them.

Like bees, we monks find our deepest identity in giving ourselves over to the life of our community, embracing as our own the life of the community. We are called to love the community and its work, and we desire to contribute to it. Each of us, in faithfully working in our assignments given by the abbot, be they simple or “grand,” contributes in a meaningful way to the whole. Sometimes the needs of the community change, and we, through our vow of obedience, are called to be flexible and go where we are needed rather than where we may want to be. Like bees, we give of ourselves, from our hearts and bodies to build up the monastic community. But most significant is our source of life: the “flowers” of God’s grace which surround us. Graces can appear like beautiful roses or as simple and hidden clover (which are far more common). It is the task of monastic life to gather our nourishment from these graces, to pick up on the opportunities to hear God speaking to us. His graces are everywhere, if we are willing to fly to them, and we need not fly far. They are in the daily liturgy. They are in our work, in our interactions, our joys and our trials, ever growing and always beautiful, even if on the outside they appear plain or even ugly. Not every flower smells sweet, but in them bees may still be found, bringing home precious pollen to share with the hive, for our graces are not for us alone. From this, we may draw one final analogy between bees and the monastery. When bees produce honey, they always produce far more than they need, and it is this surplus abundance which we enjoy at table. Like the bees, when we are faithful to gathering in the grace of God, a monastery overflows with an abundance of sweetness and nourishment for all those who come to us, for,

The decrees of the Lord are truth, and all of them just.
They are more to be desired than gold, than the purest of gold,
and sweeter are they than honey, than honey from the comb.

Psalm 19:10-11

Pax et Gaudium

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness