Tuesday, September 19, 2017
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The Book of the Bee - Intro

THE BOOK OF THE BEE

THE SYRIAC TEXT

EDITED FROM THE MANUSCRIPTS IN LONDON, OXFORD, AND MUNICH


THE BOOK OF THE BEE.

TRUSTING in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, we begin to write this book of gleanings called 'The Bee,' which was composed by the saint of God, M Solomon, metropolitan of Perath-Maish, that is Bassorah (al-Basrah), one of His companions. O Lord, in Thy mercy help me. Amen.

FIRST, THE APOLOGY.

'The children ought not to lay up treasures for the parents, but the parents for the spiritual children,' saith the blessed Paul; therefore we are bound to repay thee the debt of love, O beloved brother and staff of our old age, saint of God, M Narses, bishop of KhSh Bh-Wik. We remember thy solicitude for us, and thy zeal for our service, which thou didst fulfil with fervent love and Christ-like humility. And when we had loving meetings with each other from time to time, thou wert wont to ask questions and to make enquiries about the various things which God hath wrought in His dispensation in this material world, and also as to the things that He is about to do in the world of light. But since we were afflicted with the Mosaic defect of hesitancy of speech, we were unable to inform thee fully concerning the profitable matters about which, as was right, thou didst enquire; and for this reason we were prevented from profitable discourse upon the holy Books. Since, then, God has willed and ruled our separation from each other, and the sign of old age, which is the messenger of death, hath appeared in us, and we have grown old and come into years, it has seemed good to us, with the reed for a tongue and with ink for lips, to inform thee briefly concerning God's dispensation in the two worlds. And, behold, we have gleaned and collected and gathered together chapters and sections relating to this whole universe from the garden of the divine Books and from the crumbs of the Fathers and the Doctors, having laid down as the foundation of our building the beginning of the creation of this world, and concluding with the consummation of the world to come. We have called this book the 'Book of the Bee,' because we have gathered of the blossoms of the two Testaments and of the flowers of the holy Books, and have placed them therein for thy benefit. As the common bee with gauzy wings flies about, and flutters over and lights upon flowers of various colours, and upon blossoms of divers odours, selecting and gathering from all of them the materials which are useful for the construction of her handiwork; and having first of all collected the materials from the flowers, carries them upon her thighs, and bringing them to her dwelling, lays a foundation for her building with a base of wax; then gathering in her mouth some of the heavenly dew which is upon the blossoms of spring, brings it and blows it into these cells; and weaves the comb and honey for the use of men and her own nourishment: in like manner have we, the infirm, hewn the stones of corporeal words from the rocks of the Scriptures which are in the Old Testament, and have laid them down as a foundation for the edifice of the spiritual law. And as the bee carries the waxen substance upon her thighs because of its insipidity and tastelessness, and brings the honey in her mouth because of its sweetness and value; so also have we laid down the corporeal law by way of substratum and foundation, and the spiritual law for a roof and ceiling to the edifice of the spiritual tower. And as the expert gardener and orchard-keeper goes round among the gardens, and seeking out the finest sorts of fruits takes from them slips and shoots, and plants them in his own field; so also have we gone into the garden of the divine Books, and have culled therefrombranches and shoots, and have planted them in the ground of this book for thy consolation and benefit. When thou, O brother, art recreating thyself among these plants, those which appear and which thou dost consider to be insipid and tasteless, leave for thy companions, for they may be more suitable to others (than to thee); but, upon those which are sweet, and which sweeten the palate of thy understanding, do thou feed and satisfy thy hunger. If, however, owing to their fewness, they do not fill thee, seek in succession for their roots, and from thence shall thy want be satisfied. Know also, O brother, that where there is true love, there is no fear and where there is freedom of speech, there is no dread; and we should not dare to be so rash as to enter upon these subjects, which are beyond the capacity of our simple understanding, unless we relied upon thy immaculate love; because, in the words of one of the inspired. When thou findest honey, eat (only) so much as is sufficient for thee, lest, when thou art sated, thou vomit it that is to say, do not enquire (too closely) into the divine words.

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