Elder George Alevras

The Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul) is the church par excellence – a reference point for all of Christianity, as it was the most majestic church of the Byzantine Empire

Historian Procopius of Caesarea wrote about the Church of Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia) that: Hagia Sophia built from God’s power and not from the power of men.

From the moment Justinian built Hagia Sophia in its current form, an insurmountable work for its time, many considered it a model of heaven on earth and not the work of human craftsmanship, but of divine intervention.

It is no coincidence that its creation was always accompanied by stories, legends and traditions, including the story of the Emperor and the beehive, which created the design of Hagia Sophia.

According to legend, the Emperor, dissatisfied with the plans the master builder had presented for the temple, came to the Divine Liturgy one Sunday.

When the Patriarch gave the Emperor “antidoro” – a small piece of blessed bread, it fell from his hands; a bee took it and flew it away. The Emperor ordered all beekeepers to examine their beehives to find the antidoro.

The antidoro was found inside the beehive that the master builder owned. Inside, the bees had made a wonderful prototype of Hagia Sophia from their wax.

 

Many years ago, Saint Basil the Great described the honeybee colony as the ideal society and he used it as an example in many of his speeches. He instructed young people to exercise discretion, for the choices they will make in their live, and to give due consideration to those decisions.

 

Therefore the soul must be guarded with great care, lest through our love for letters, it receives some contamination unawares, as men drink in poison with honey…

We shall receive gladly those passages in which they praise virtue or condemn vice. For just as bees know how to extract honey from flowers, which to men are agreeable only for their fragrance and color, even so here also those who look for something more than pleasure and enjoyment in such writers may derive profit for their souls. Now, then, altogether after the manner of bees must we use these writings, for the bees do not visit all the flowers without discrimination, nor indeed do they seek to carry away entire those upon which they light, but rather, having taken so much as they seek to carry away entire those upon which they light, but rather, having taken so much as is adapted to their needs, they let the rest go.

 

It is no coincidence, then, that the Orthodox Church assigns the Great Basil the name “bee”

From the New Testament, we learn that Saint John the Baptist is fed on wild honey while the disciples offer the Risen Christ to eat some honeycomb. “So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.” (Luke 24:42)

 

Many Saints such as Saint Gregory, Saint John Chrysostom among others, have referred to the perfect society of a bee colony, as a unique example for man. They liken the honeybee colony to a model for the Cristian flock and how a society should function.

 

Another example can be drawn from the life of Saint Filaretos and protector of beekeepers, who is known for his almsgiving with his beehives. Meanwhile in Halkidiki every year, when the feast day of Saint Stephen the First Martyr is celebrated and the saint’s relics are returned to its safekeeping area in Arnaia, the area is also known as Saint Stephen the Beekeeper, Protector of Arnaia and the beekeepers of the area.

It is also worth mentioning that the opening of the Hagia Sophia took place on December 27, 537, which is the feast day of St. Stephen, the First Martyr.

 

In 2006, God brought me to the Agrafa mountain range of Pindos, in the region of Western Thessaly. There, I settled into the Holy Monastery of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, next to a small village called Katousi Karditsis.

 

One of the first things I learned about the Monastery was that a few years before I arrived there was a wonderful event had taken place.  The bees had built their hive in a cupboard/c inside the Holy Altar, passing through a slit in the stones of the wall.

I was told this wonderful story by the priests who worked there. They told me about the bees that lived in the sanctuary and, that every year, on the Feast Day on September 8 honouring the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, when the priests would give “antidoro” or blessed bread to the faithful, they would also cut a small piece of honeycomb and hand them out together as a blessing. The bees lived inside the Holy Church and would many times fly around during the service, without disturbing anyone. This story lasted several years.

 

In September 2009, the original and simple icon of the Virgin Mary of the bees was created and it kept in the house of one of my spiritual children. In fact, on the first night that the family hosted the icon, the Virgin Mary visited the couple’s six-year-old daughter in her sleep and spoke to her.

The icon of the Virgin Mary of Honey was created by a great hagiographer (icon painter) and it was delivered to the Holy Hermitage of the Holy Trinity, in Mount Athos, on August 22, 2018. The icon was offered to me as a gift, a great gift from a spiritual perspective, but it is also a masterpiece.

 

On November 9, 2018, the icon was transferred to a small monastery in Trikala which is considered an excellent area for beehives.

 

May 20th has been established as World Bee Day. All of humanity recognizes the important role bees play in maintaining life and in keeping our ecosystem in balance. The bee is a unique gift from God to man, a lasting blessing that we must protect like the apple of our eyes.

 

We owe glory to God and to the spirit of the Saints who used the example of bees, to help us promote today around the whole world, the insights we can gain as mankind from the excellent and ideal way honeybee colonies work.

 

Christians around the world light candles, candles which have been made from bees’ wax. From the work of these blessed creatures works, Christians light candles and pray to God and Virgin Mary for help with their problems and to glorify God for His goodness.

 

Especially in these difficult times, it is imperative to listen to the voice of the three Hierarchs (Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom) and all the Saints, who with their examples showed us the way forward to build an ideal Christian society.

 

In 2019, the Church of Notre Dame in Paris was destroyed.

In this catastrophic event, the miraculous event occurred – the 180,000 bees that lived in three hives on the roof of the building survived the fire and toxic fumes. But miraculous events and signs of the times never happen by chance!

The Virgin Mary did not protect this church, but she protected these blessed insects, the bees who work tirelessly for the salvation of life on the planet and for humans. Who knows? Maybe these bees will revive the legend of Hagia Sophia…

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