The bee is small among flying creatures,
but what it produces is the best of sweet things.
There has been in the news the alarming stories of the decline of the bee population throughout the world. Many causes have been postulated to explain this decline. Whatever the cause, the loss of the bees is a threat to all earthlings of any species who rely on the plants they pollinate to produce flowers, fruits and vegetables. The calamity that might be caused by the loss of plant pollinators should concern us all. Bees are small insects, but hold an important position in the environment and health of the planet’s inhabitants. Bees are one insect for which there are written prayers in the Orthodox tradition. Imagine that! We have such a rich prayer tradition that we pray even for bugs! To love God’s creation is to become like God.
In the Orthodox Church we have recognized the importance of bees for centuries and have prayers for both bees and beehives. The prayers below were adapted from the GREAT BOOK OF NEEDS for the blessing of bees and beehives. Bees give us beauty and honey. The wondrous glory of flowers is geared more toward bugs and pollinators than to us. The flowers are an example of something not primarily anthropomorphically centered. We are mostly a secondary beneficiary of the beauty of flowers. They mainly serve the continuation of plant species and to attract pollinators. Glory to God for the bees!
First Prayer for Bees
O God, the Creator of all, who blesses seed and makes it to increase and makes it profitable for our use: Through the intercession of the Forerunner and Baptist John, mercifully hearing our prayers, be pleased to bless and sanctify the bees by Your own deep compassion, that they may abundantly bear fruit for the beauty and adornment of Your temple and Your holy altars, and they they may be useful for us, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be honor and glory unto ages of ages. Amen.
Gardeners, farmers, nature lovers, florists and photographers all should be praying for the bees. Those who love the sweetness of honey and the juice of fruits and the taste of vegetables, all should be joining in praying for the bees.
Second Prayer for Bees
O God, who knows how to work benefits through human labor and irrational living things, You instructed us in your loving-kindness to employ the fruits and works of the bees for our needs. Now humbly we beseech Your majesty: Be pleased to bless the bees and increase them for the profit of the human race, preserving them and making them abundant. Let everyone hoping in Your majesty and Your boundless compassions, and laboring in the care of these living things, be counted worthy to receive abundant fruits of their labors and to be filled with heavenly blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom is due glory, honor and worship unto ages of ages. Amen.
The rest of the photos are about bees and other creatures that pollinate as well – all of them essential to our well being and for our enjoying the an abundance of the luscious fruits of the earth.
“Like a bee one should extract from each of the virtues what is most profitable. In this way, by taking a small amount from all of them, one builds up from the practice of the virtues a great honeycomb overflowing with the soul-delighting honey of wisdom.” (St. Gregory of Sinai – 14th Century, THE PHILOKALIA)
“Traversing the fields a bee gathers the ingredients for honey;
traversing the ages the soul infuses sweetness into the mind.”
(Ilias the Presbyter – ca 12th Century, THE PHILOKALIA)
“Or else go to the bee, and learn how laborious she is, and her work how valuable it is, whose labors both kings and mean men make use of for their health. She is desirable and glorious, though she be weak in strength…” (The Apostolic Constitution, 4th Century)
Jesus Christ said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Bees are a part of that abundant life the Creator gives us – they are essential to flowers, honey, wine, wheat, fruit and all those signs of the abundance of life with which God has blessed us. God has provide other pollinators as well for which we should give thanks to God, and also work to protect in our concern for nature and the world which God has made.
“… We got to talking about the beauty of this world of God’s, and about its great mystery. For each blade of grass, each little bug, ant, golden bee, knows its way amazingly; being without reason, they witness to the divine mystery, they ceaselessly enact it.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, Kindle Loc. 6636-37)
For all the pollinators, especially the bees of so many varieties, we give thanks to God our Creator. O Lord, how manifold are Your works, in wisdom You made them all! (Psalm 104:24) And we pray not only that God will abundantly bless the bees, but even their hives.
A Prayer Blessing the Beehives
O Almighty and Pre-eternal God: You hold all creation in the palm of your hands; You possess the heavens, the earth and all that is them; You compassionately grant unto all created things that which is beneficial for them. With compunction, we pray to You, O all-good One: As in ancient times You granted the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, and as you were well-pleased to nourish Your baptizer John in the wilderness with wild honey, so now by Your good pleasure and caring for our sustenance, bless the beehives in their apiary, greatly increase the number of bees in them, preserve them by Your grace, and fill us rich with honey. Let none of these beehives which You have fashioned be deprived of bees, but let them always be filled with honeycombs of honey. And according to Your great benefits and invincible might, let them be shown undefeated by evils and unshaken by curses. Rather, fenced round about by Your all-powerful might and defended by your armed host, let them always remain unharmed and in Your grasp, O Christ. For Yours it is to be merciful and to save us, O Christ our God, and unto You do we send up glory, honor and worship, together with Your Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. John the Forerunner is mentioned in two of the above prayers, a patron saint for bees whose honey the bible tells us he enjoyed. In Bulgaria the Orthodox have a special day dedicated to the blessing of honey, bees and beehives. On February 10 each year St. Haralambos is commemorated and honey is blessed.