Allegory of the Bees

(from private revelation given to St. Bridget of Sweden)

bee on flowers

There is an insect called the bee that is kept by its lord and master. The bees show respect in three ways to their ruler, the queen bee, and derive benefit from her in three ways. First, the bees carry all the nectar they find to their queen. Second, they stay or go at her beck and call, and wherever they fly and wherever they appear, their love and charity is always for the queen. Third, they follow and serve her, sticking steadily close by her side. In return for these three things, the bees receive a threefold benefit from their queen.

First, her signal gives them a set time to go out and work. Second, she gives them direction and mutual love. Because of her presence and rule and because of the love she has toward them and they toward her, all the bees are united with one another in love, and each one rejoices over the others and at their advancement. Third, they are made fruitful through their mutual love and the joy of their leader. Just as fish discharge their eggs while playing together in the sea, and their eggs fall into the sea and bear fruit, so bees are also made fruitful through their mutual love and their leader’s affection and joy. By My wondrous power, a seemingly lifeless seed comes forth from their love and will receive life through My goodness.

The master, that is, the owner of the bees, speaks to his servant in his concern for them: “My servant,” he says, “it seems to me that my bees are ill and do not fly at all.”

The servant answers: “I do not understand this illness, but if it is so, I ask you how I can learn about it.”

The master answers: “You can infer their illness or problem by three signs. The first sign is that they are weak and sluggish in flight, which means that they have lost the queen from whom they receive strength and consolation. The second sign is that they go out at random and unplanned hours, which means that they are not getting the signal of their leader’s call. The third sign is that they show no love for the beehive, and therefore return home carrying nothing back, sating themselves but not bringing any nectar to live on in the future. Healthy and fit bees are steady and strong in their flight. They keep regular hours for going out and returning, bringing back wax to build their dwellings and honey for their nourishment.”

The servant answers the master: “If they are useless and infirm, why do you allow them to go on anymore and do not do away with them?”

The master answers: “I permit them to live for three reasons, inasmuch as they provide three benefits, although not by their own power. First, because they occupy the dwellings prepared for them, horseflies do not come and occupy the empty dwellings and disturb the good bees that remain. Second, other bees become more fruitful and diligent at their work due to the badness of the bad bees. The fruitful bees see the bad and unfruitful bees working only to satisfy their own desires, and they become the more diligent in their work of gathering for their queen the more eager the bad bees are seen to be in gathering for their own desires.

“In the third place, the bad bees are useful to the good bees when it comes to their mutual defense. For there is a flying insect accustomed to eating bees. When the bees perceive this insect coming, all of them hate it in common. Although the bad bees fight and hate it out of envy and self-defense, while the good ones do so out of love and justice, both the good and bad bees work together to attack these insects. If all the bad bees were taken away and only the good ones were left, this insect would quickly prevail over them, since then they would be fewer.

“That is why,” the master said, “I put up with the useless bees. However, when autumn comes, I shall provide for the good bees and shall separate them from the bad ones that, if they are left outside the beehive, will die from the cold. But if they remain inside and do not gather, they will be in danger of starvation, inasmuch as they have neglected to gather food when they could.”

I am God, the Creator of all things; I am the owner and the lord of the bees. Out of My ardent love and by My blood I founded My beehive, that is, the Holy Church, in which Christians should be gathered and dwell in unity of faith and mutual love. Their dwelling-places are their hearts, and the honey of good thoughts and affections should inhabit it. This honey ought to be brought there through considering My love in creation and My toils in redemption and My patient support and mercy in calling back and restoring.

In this beehive, that is, in the Holy Church, there are two kinds of people, just as there were two kinds of bees. The first ones are those bad Christians who do not gather nectar for Me but for themselves. They return carrying nothing back and do not recognize their leader. They have a sting instead of honey and lust instead of love.

The good bees represent good Christians. They show Me respect in three ways. First, they hold Me as their leader and lord, offering Me sweet honey, that is, works of charity, which are pleasing to Me and useful to themselves. Second, they wait upon My Will. Their will accords with My Will, all their thought is on My passion, all their actions are for My glory. Third, they follow Me, that is, they obey Me in everything.

Wherever they are, whether outside or inside, whether in sorrow or in joy, their heart is always joined to My heart. This is why they derive benefit from Me in three ways. First, through the call of virtue and My inspiration, they have fixed and certain times, night at nighttime and daylight at daytime. Indeed, they change night into day, that is, worldly happiness into eternal happiness, and perishable happiness into everlasting stability. They are sensible in every respect, inasmuch as they make use of their present goods for their necessities; they are steadfast in adversity, wary in success, moderate in the care of the body, careful and circumspect in their actions. Second, like the good bees, they have mutual love, in such a way that they are all of one heart toward Me, loving their neighbor as themselves but Me above all else, even above themselves.

Third, they are made fruitful through Me. What is it to be fruitful if not to have My Holy Spirit and be filled with Him? Whoever does not have Him and lacks His honey is unfruitful and useless; he falls down and perishes. However, the Holy Spirit sets the person in whom He dwells on fire with divine love; He opens the senses of his mind; He uproots pride and incontinence; He spurs the soul on to the glory of God and the contempt of the world.

The unfaithful bees do not know this Spirit and therefore scorn discipline, fleeing the unity and fellowship of love. They are empty of good works; they change daylight into darkness, consolation into mourning, happiness into sorrow. Nevertheless, I let them live for three reasons. First, so that horseflies, that is, the infidels, do not get into the dwelling-places that have been prepared. If the wicked were removed all at once, there would be too few good Christians left, and, because of their small numbers, the infidels, being greater in number, would come and live side by side with them, causing them much disturbance. Second, they are tolerated in order to test the good Christians, for, as you know, the perseverance of good people is put to the test by the wickedness of the wicked.

Adversity reveals how patient a person is, while prosperity makes plain how persevering and temperate he is. Since vices insinuate themselves into good characters from time to time and virtues can often make people proud, the wicked are allowed to live alongside the good in order that good people may not become enervated from too much happiness or fall asleep out of sloth, and also in order that they may frequently fix their gaze on God. Where there is little struggle, there is also little reward.

In the third place, they are tolerated for their assistance so that neither the gentiles nor other hostile infidels might harm those seeming to be good Christians., but that they might rather fear them because there are more of them. The good offer resistance to the wicked out of justice and love of God, while the wicked do so only for the sake of self-defense and to avoid God’s wrath. In this way, then, the good and wicked help each other, with the result that the wicked are tolerated for the sake of the good and the good receive a higher crown on account of the wickedness of the wicked.


A child of Jesus and Mary.

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