Monday, July 4, 2011
Sweet as Honey
I love honey, and so does God! Yep: God loves that sweet nectar and syrupy delight. I'm told our Lord has a particular fondness for Alabama honey made in Odenville, where the bees produce a medium-flavoured honey with an incredibly smooth and long-lasting finish.
The Sacred Scriptures didn’t miss this either. They are overflowing with references to honey. The phrase ‘the land of milk and honey’ is used no less than twenty-one times in the Old Testament alone. Overall, ‘honey’ is used over sixty times in the whole of the bible. Honey, moreover, is the perfect metaphor for describing the ‘sweetness’ of our salvation, and that’s often how it’s used.
And, of course, St. John the Baptist was fond of its flavour, especially when mixed with locusts (Mark 1:6). And it just so happens that we’ve only recently celebrated the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24) on the Church Kalendar.
But I find his feast terribly underappreciated in the Church. This vexes me. I find the lack of honey aficionados perplexing and vexing as well. Allow me, then, to offer a brief meditation on both.
First, let’s not neglect St. John the Baptist, honey’s greatest fan and the utmost prophet in history. He points us to the fullness of time, which is another way of asking us once more to consider the Incarnation, the enfleshment of God, when Jesus Christ, true God and true man, came down from heaven to redeem His people.
St. John the Baptist is that ‘voice crying the wilderness’, the one prophesied in Isaiah who is saying to us ‘prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’. And he also heralds the arrival of the Incarnation by later saying to his followers and to us, ‘repent for the kingdom has come near’.
First let me remind us that a ‘desert highway’ is a dry and deadly place. It’s lonely, it’s hot (like Alabama in the summer), it’s barren and it’s insular, that is, due to the direct sunlight, it’s a place where very little life flourishes; vegetation tries to grow, but usually, it wilts in the intense heat of the day. Scorpions and all sorts of creepy crawly things live there, too. I’m thinking of snakes and tarantulas in particular. My masculinity is wilting as I type!
In contrast, however, the kingdom of God, the kingdom to which Isaiah and St. John the Baptist direct us is a place overflowing with springs of living water, a place where life is abundant and filled with the radiance of God.
My point, if you can’t tell where I’m going, is simple: what is your desert? Is it worry, anxiety, depression, loneliness, or crippling fear? Is your heart ‘prone to wander’ and your burden in life seemingly too heavy to go on? We must ask this question of ourselves, no?
There is, however, another way of living. You and I don’t have to spend all the time in the desert of our own mire. We don’t have to imagine seeing cool waters just over the horizon, nor do we have to pretend that the mirages we construct in our lives somehow fix what ails us.
Perhaps the worst facet of a desert life is that after too much time we start to become used to living in a barren land. The desert for some of us has become a normal dwelling place. It’s almost as if we expect it. From all deserts, Good Lord deliver us!
But we don’t have to be in the desert, because God in Christ, as John the Baptist reminds us, has ‘come near’. And that means more than a passing by; it means He’s still here, leading us beside still waters and answering our supplications! ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people’, cries out Zechariah in St. Luke’s gospel.
The nearness of Kingdom of God ultimately means victory over sin and death and new life in Christ. It means everything is now different. Read that again: it means EVERYTHING is different.
The desert has been transformed, brothers and sisters. The coming of the Kingdom, the place to which John the Baptist directs us, means the desert highway has been straightened and at is centre has been erected the eternal throne of God, and ‘the Lamb in the midst of the throne is our shepherd, and he will guide us to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes’.
A transformed life is where St. John the Baptist points us. The feast of his nativity is the affirmation that Christ has come among us and redeemed us.
And the man likes honey, which is just another reason to venerate his witness to the Faith. So if you like honey and you’re ready to enhance your neighbourhood cookouts, try this slaw recipe.
Summer Slaw With Alabama Honey
1jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Alabama honey (You can order by calling 205-640-5416)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 small head green cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 small head red cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 cup green onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1 teaspoon celery seed
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
In a blender combine jalapeno, mayonnaise, Dijon, honey, and rice vinegar. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a large mixing bowl combine cabbages, onions, dill and celery seeds and toss. Fold dressing into cabbage mixture and season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Chill until needed. This is also tasty atop a burger or bratwurst.