adviento 3: bálsamo

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1)

The 3rd Sunday in Advent turns around John the Baptist, who survived in the desert on locusts and wild honey (Mark 1). It seemed fitting therefore, that this week I met again with Alicia who teaches beekeeping at the University of Buenos Aires. We first met in the company of beekeeping friends visiting from England and, on the day after the first snow in Buenos Aires for 89 years, we donned hats and nets and peered into the frost-covered hives where the bees huddled together to keep warm.

Alicia's passion for beekeeping is a delight. We talked about the devastating impact of genetic soya on honey production; examined tiny sting-less bees native to Missiones, in the tropical north-east of Argentina; and discussed her advisory support for several projects working with pueblos originarios (original communities) in the north-east, including GESER, which supports rural women in a range of activities, including herb cultivation.

This time round, we also talked about the traditional healing properties of honey and how closely (in language, life and theology) healing is connected to salvation. Similarly, through her work with African-Brazilian traditions, Silvia Regina de Lima Silva writes of God as the one who soothes and heals, in many ways including medicinal herbs and teas, songs and dance, care and conversation (de Lima Silva 2005: 243).

A few years ago I read Sue Monk Kidd's novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which has just been released as a film (see trailer below). The book is about the hospitality of three African-American sisters towards a runaway white girl and her African-American carer. The sisters keep bees and make honey which is sold in jars bearing an image of a black Madonna. This image of Mary is part of their spirituality and at the centre of the community that gathers at their home. Honey and wax are used as a salve both to maintain the wooden statue of Mary and to sooth and protect her faithful followers.

Once again in this week's readings, we hear the prophets telling of God's saving grace and desire for the healing of ourselves and this broken world.

Silvia de Lima Silva (2005) “Fe y “Axe”: sanción como experiencia de encuentro con la fuerza que nos habita.” in Ecce mulier Homenaje a Irene Foulkes, San José, Costa Rica: UBL, editorial SEBILA, pp 231-45.

The readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent can be found here.