Monday, July 23, 2012

Mara's Musings - Honey: The Kingly Preservative

Note: We are blessed to have many friends and family members who share our fascination with Catholic traditions and their application in the domestic church. Here is the first of (hopefully) many posts from one of them, our lovely sister Mara. Check back for more of "Mara's Musings" on Mondays!

Recently, we were speaking with Mara, who is particularly fond of the honeybee, and were impressed by her ambition to someday become a beekeeper.  Honey and bees are fundamental symbols within Christianity and paganism.  Honey represents both the sweetness of life and its preservation.  The bee is the diligent warrior-worker who strives to bring sweetness into the world through community. We were excited to hear Mara talk so passionately about the subject matter and asked if she could share some of her thoughts about honey, bees, and their place in the domestic church on Forgotten Altars. 

A drop of honey catches more flies than a barrel of vinegar. ~ Old Proverb   
Honey is older than human civilization. It has been used through the centuries for ritual as well as practical purposes. For example, if you seal and store honey it will last forever because it is a natural preservative, which is why it was used to embalm dead bodies. The kings of Sparta were embalmed in honey, and Alexander the Great was laid in a golden coffin filled with white honey. Honey was also used in Egyptian coffins as well to prevent bacterial growth. It's not only fit for kings; honey has been used as a folk remedy for ages to lower a fever, ward off snake bites, relieve aches and pains and get rid of hay fever. 
Bee's Buried with Childeric

“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because it labors, but because it labors for others”  ~St. John Chrysostom     

There are many more things I could tell you about honey, and there is a wealth of information out there if you want to learn more about how to make or use it. But how does this relate to the domestic church? The most important thing for us as Catholics is the symbolism of the worker bee. The worker bees are a symbol of the religious men and women in the church. Like the worker bees we need to work unceasingly for our hive (the church), obeying our superiors and, most importantly, our Queen. We, like the bee, would scatter without our Queen. We need to be like the warrior bee as well by defending our hive, even if it means dying in the process.         

He who deals with honey will sometimes be licking his fingers. ~ Old Proverb    

That being said, part of being Catholic is also enjoying the good fruit of the earth. While doing my research I happened to run into a scripture cake. Scripture cakes date back to the colonial days. It is a riddle cake to test the cook's familiarity with the Bible. The cook is not given the list of ingredients, but has to look them up based on corresponding Scripture passages. As an example, in Samuel 14:29 it says “See how my eyes have become bright, because I tasted a little of this honey.” By reading this passage the cook knows to add honey in the amount designated in the recipe. This is a great family activity - and the results are delicious!

Scripture Cake
(Don't cheat! Look up the ingredients before you read the instructions below:)

 4 1/2 cups – 1 Kings 4:22                              
1/2 teaspoon – Leviticus 2:13
2 tablespoons- Amos 4:5                              
1/2 teaspoon- Chronicles 9:9                   
1/2 cup- Judges 5:25                              
1 1/3 cups- 1 Samuel 14:29                         
6- Jeremiah 17:11                                        
2 tablespoons- Judges 4:19
2 cups- Nahum 3:12                                      
1 1/2 cups-Numbers 17:8                          
2 cups- 1 Samuel 30:12   

Now proceed with the recipe...

 Sift together the flour, salt ,baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon each of
of cinnamon, mace, cloves, allspice, and ginger. Set aside.

Beat the butter until creamy. Stir in the honey. Then beat in the eggs,
one at a time. Add the milk. Mix well. Stir in the flour mixture.

Chop the figs. Toss them with 1 tablespoon of flour until they are
lightly coated all over. Add the figs, almonds, and raisins to the batter. Stir well.
Butter a 10 inch round pan with removable sides. Dust it with flour. Pour in the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about 2 hours. Cool completely and enjoy.


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