Image via WikipediaWell, it's Holy Week, and somewhere between the palm fronds of Palm Sunday and the lilies of Easter morning, we're tending the gardens of our hearts, examining our spiritual lives and pausing to reflect on the Passion of our Lord Jesus as he suffered for our sakes, died to pay our debt, and rose again in victory over sin and death.
As a writer, I'm a huge fan of using floral symbols in my writing (with three manuscripts named after flowers, I'm sort of hooked). Today on Inkwell Inspirations, I've posted on the Church's use of floral symbols, many of which are age-old. Back in the days before the written word was accessible, the Church used other means to teach Scripture, theology and the lives of saints. Visual aids, such as stained glass, iconography, and stitching on altar linens, vestments and kneeling cushions, served as teaching tools for Christians through the ages to symbolically convey moral, spiritual or emotional truths.
What do I mean? Well, sometime you may notice a lily in a centuries-old representation of Mary, Mother of Jesus. Or you've wondered why we decorate with shamrocks or clovers on St. Patrick's Day. Or perhaps your church has kneeling cushions at the altar rail, decorated with symbols like strawberries or pomegranates.
What do those symbols mean?
You'll have to read my other post (click here) to learn more, but here are some of the symbols I couldn't include:
- Almond blossoms: divine approval, or chosen of God. It's the blossoming rod God instructs His people ot use in Numbers 17:1-8, and it's also used in depictions of Mary.
- Apple: sin, of course, based on the story of Genesis 3, though apples aren't specifically named as the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. In the hands of Jesus, however, the apple has come to mean salvation.
- Red Carnations: Jesus' love for us.
- Cherry: good works of the saints.
- Clover: the Trinity.
Image by TexasEagle via Flickr
Columbine (pictured): the Holy Spirit, because some think the blossom looks like a dove.
Holly: a "Christmas" greenery to us, the early church used it to symbolize the Passion.
- Ivy: eternal life because of the green color, and fidelity because it clings to something for support.
- Lily: purity, which is why it was used in depictions of Mary, particularly in regards to the Annunciation. In America, it also represents new birth and is regarded as an Easter bloom
- Oak: faith, endurance.
- Pomegranate: represents the Church, as it unifies many seeds in one fruit.
- Strawberry: the fruit of the Spirit.
- Thistle: sin.
We may not rely on these symbols today, but it's fun and interesting to see how the Church has communicated theological, historical, and Scriptural elements. As you prepare for Easter, I pray that you blossom and bear fruit as you dwell and serve in His will.