This past week, my husband invited me to accompany him to an architecture installation. It was titled “Architecture of Bees”. They had me with that title. So we walked into this small gallery which had a mixture of scientific facts about bees and their hives while also displaying structures which have been built with hexagonal shapes, similar to a bee hive. Some examples were:
This was the portion that Nick was most interested in, since he is an architect, but I gravitated a bit more to the science posters. Some of the boards discussed the interesting fact that bees always maintain a hive temperature of 93-97° Fahrenheit no matter the temperature outside the hive. When it is cold outside, many bees form a barrier with their bodies while a handful of bees stay inside and contract their flight muscles, raising their body temperature. Other bees remain inside the barrier flapping their wings to circulate the heat evenly throughout the entire area.
When it is hot outside, the bees will also flap their wings to circulate air throughout the hive. If this is not enough to cool the hive, they practice evaporative cooling. Some bees fan the air with their wings while others drop water into the hive. The air passes through the water and cool humid air circulates throughout the hive.
Looking at the way we have learned from nature and incorporate ideas like hexagons into our structures as well, it got me thinking about other ways that we can learn from nature and incorporate it into our lives. While talking with my friend Mallory at lunch, she reminded me that the Church already does this. She reminded me that at the beginning of this season of Easter, a portion of the Exsultet mentions bees as we use their wax to make our Paschal Candle for the year:
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
As the Church begins this new season each year, it begins by reminding us of our connectedness with nature. While celebrating the Easter Vigil in 2012, during his homily, Pope Benedict XVI had this to say on the text:
“The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d'être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.”
As the bees each individually played their role in creating the wax, so too all of us must play our roles in the “living community of believers”. Earlier I spoke of the bees heating the hive. If all of the bees chose to be on the barrier, none would do the heating. If all of the bees did the heating, none would be keeping the heat in the hive. Neither example successfully heats the hive, and all bees would suffer. All of us have our roles in the church. Some of us will be leaders. Others will be in the crowd. Both are vital. Some of us may be called to be lectors or join a choir. Maybe we are called to be a smiling, welcoming face at coffee and donuts.
We must listen to where God is calling us to serve right now. Sometimes that role changes. A lot of things are changing in my life and my current role feels uncertain, but Mallory has been a great example for me of listening to where God needs us at this moment. Last year Mallory was called to serve as the president of our St. Anne’s Society (mothers of young children group). She did a great job, then at our meeting last week she stepped down and our next year’s board took over. In talking with her I was reminded of the humility it takes to answer a call to lead and the humility it also takes to step down. Our roles change, but if we listen to God, we can play the role that the Church needs from us right now.
As we close out the Easter season, this time of joy and celebration, I invite you to spend some time in prayer asking what your role is in God’s church. What is needed of you right now? Are you called to do more, to step up into a leadership position? Are you being asked to step down and let others take the lead? Are you simply needed to be present, to shine with the joy of Christ to all who see you? The architecture shown earlier that was inspired by nature is beautiful. I think a church inspired by the unity and teamwork of bees in nature can be even more beautiful.