Hive Heroes: The Sisters of Holy Theotokos Convent

 

Hive Heroes are the awesome folks in our community who educate, inspire, and empower us to be Shomrei Adamah, Protectors of the Earth, and Shomrei Devorim, Protectors of the Bees. This week, we are featuring Mother Irene and the sisters of Holy Theotokos Convent.

Lighting candles has always been a holy practice for the Jewish people. Each week, we usher in Shabbat by lighting two candles as we gather around and say a blessing. On each night of Chanukah, we light our Chanukiah as we celebrate the miracle of light that lasted for eight days. Shoresh has always sought to honour these traditional practices by sharing beautiful, sustainable, and healthy beeswax candles with our community.

The practice of lighting candles is sacred in other religions as well, and something that unites us all. For the past three years, Shoresh has partnered with the sisters at Holy Theotokos Convent in Stouffville, Ontario to create our 100% pure Beeswax Chanukah Candles.

For over 20 years, Mother Irene and the sisters at Holy Theotokos Convent have been making 100% pure beeswax candles as a way of supporting themselves through handicrafts. Mother Irene and the sisters at Holy Theotokos Convent are our Hive Heroes. We are so inspired by the radical work that they do and feel a deep connection to their mission.

Mother Irene with freshly made beeswax candles.

Mother Irene welcomed me into the convent and their beeswax candle shop, Joyous Light Beeswax Candles, to show me how the beeswax candles are made and to share with me her deep connection to the holy work of candle making.

She sat down with me to tell me about the traditional Orthodox Christian practice of candle making, what inspires her to do this work, and her love of bees and our pollinator friends:

1. Can you please tell me about how you/Holy Theotokos Convent started working with beeswax?

Traditionally, candles have always been important in our daily lives. We knew people would always need candles attending services and saying their prayers, so we thought that would be the best way to be self-supporting, more so because of the connection candles have with our faith and how they have been traditionally used. In the Old Testament, Aaron was in charge of taking care of the alter with the candle sticks and we believe that we offer pure candles knowing people will be using it as a pure offering to G-d as they say their prayers. It means a lot to us that we can help individuals connect and get closer to G-d in that way.

The conveyor system that dips frames of organic cotton wicks into hot beeswax, making candles.

2. For Shoresh, Jewish teachings and spiritual connection are integral to the work that we do, as well as the products we create and share with our community. Can you please share with us the spiritual dimension of your work and how Orthodox Christian values guide you in your beautiful beeswax creations?

Working with something that is so natural to our environment and knowing that we are able to provide that for people as a pure offering to G-d is fulfilling to us. In the old days, work started when the sun went up and stopped when the sun went down, but this has changed because of electricity. Lighting a candle brings us back to the old days. We do our services by candlelight as we don’t have electricity in the church. It is a sombre feeling, and it makes your connection to G-d more vivid and bright. You have clarity and no interruptions as you are able to just focus.

It is important to us that we can help people make a connection with G-d by providing these candles for them to light as an offering.

Mother Irene with a frame of wicks and candles-in-the-making.

3. What do you think is the most amazing, radical thing about the bee, and what can they teach us? And what do you feel is our responsibility to the bee/pollinators in our environment?

The most radical thing for me is the fact that they pollinate!

Beeswax is very important. I read that the world could only live without bees for 3 years. Our responsibility is to take care of them, even planting some extra flowers for the bees and pollinators, and respecting them, keeping them safe. As they respect us, we need to respect them and ensure that they are still around. Whether that’s abstaining from using pesticides and what not. The beekeepers we are dealing with are finding that their crops are getting better, so people are being more conscientious about that. Just having something that bees can go to and gather their nectar is very important. Bees need water too, so I read that people are starting little water wells for bees!

A collection of beautiful beeswax candles in the workshop, made using silicone molds. To the right there are bundles of fire starter kits using recycled scraps of wicks and wax – everything gets reused and recylcled!

4. What do you think are some other ways that faith groups can come together to protect our environment and help lead a more widespread shift in people’s relationship with the natural world?

I think even what Shoresh is doing, letting people know how important having bees around are, whether it is through literature, or having some courses. For ourselves, we try to educate ourselves so we can educate other people, even to help spread the word through social media to protect the bees. It’s a win-win for everybody if we can raise awareness. We get beeswax and honey from bees, and they do so much in such a short time. If we can be as industrious in our daily lives as they are in their short life, that would be an accomplishment for all of us.

Mother Irene and Mother Magdalene (background) finishing up some pillar beeswax candles!

Support Shoresh and the sisters of Holy Theotokos Convent by purchasing Beeswax Chanukah Candles this holiday season!

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