What I love about the Divine Office is that you are plunged into the psalms, and like all poetry you are sometimes hit with a phrase or an image that strikes deep down below the rational faculties. It’s like the Holy Spirit sends a dart into your heart and the beauty and power of the image touches you in a place beyond and below words.
This morning it was the phrase from Ps. 81 “I would feed them with the finest wheat and fill them with honey from the rock.” Honey from the rock? What does that mean? When you meditate on the image it brings up a multitude of meanings. The Old Testament says that the manna from heaven tasted like honey, and the promised land is flowing with milk and honey. Then I remembered that in the early church the newly baptized, before the Eucharist, would be given milk and honey–the food of newborn infants and the food of the promised land. There’s more.
My brother is big on honey as a health food and knows a lot about bees. He says that honey is the only natural food that doesn’t rot or decay. It is a perfect preservative. As such it is a symbol, therefore for immortality. If you like it is the food of heaven. Also, honey has great healing qualities. It helps you battle infection if you have a cold. It helps you sleep at night. Furthermore, honey is made by bees, who gather nectar, and the metaphysical poets said the bees were like minute angels–flying around doing God’s business, gathering the sweetness of the sun which the flowers had made and taking it home to feed one another and to store up sweetness for man. They saw the Queen as an image of Mary–the Queen of this tiny heaven, and the community of bees as a swarm of all the angels and saints.
To boil it all down, the honey can refer therefore to God’s goodness and the sweetness of his grace, and where do we find that grace? It comes most powerfully and paradoxically from the rock. We find it where we did not expect to find it. We find the sweetest honey in the wilderness. We find it hidden in the rock, and in a world where we make ourselves and our ego the only authority what rock is harder to accept than the rock of an authority greater than ourslves–an authority to which I must submit and obey? This is the rock that is either a stumbling block or a stepping stone–and I am referring to the rock on which the church is built–Peter and his successors.
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