Three flowers are cited in the bible: the crocus, lily and the rose. Among the three, the rose is the most prominent—the most “perfect flower in beauty, looks and even smell.”
It is the symbol of love, spring, life, purity, fertility, earthly passion and perfection, virginity, and death.
It is also the flower associated with Mary, Queen of Heaven.
Roses adorn altars, statues and the Blessed Sacrament. It is a favorite flower in the gardens of convents and monasteries.
Saint Ambrose believed there were roses in the Garden of Eden, without thorns. After the fall of paradise, the rose became a thorny bush. The Blessed Mother, who is immaculately conceived, is compared to a rose without thorns.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux compared her virginity to a white rose and a red rose for her charity. Saint Dominic, who instituted the rosary, compared each bead to a rose, and a garland or a crown of roses for the Queen of Heaven.
The rose represents God’s love in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
In the 12th century the red rose was associated with Christ’s passion and the blood of martyrs.
The oldest roses are a thousand years old. The rosebush is in the old cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany. Documented as early as 815 in “Amazing Facts About Roses,” the rose plants survived the 1945 bombing of the cathedral.
Rose of Sharon
“Rose of Sharon” is the phrase used by poets and songwriters in their art works. It is the first verse in chapter 2 of Song of Songs, the “sublime portrayal and praise of the mutual love between the Lord and his people,” and, likewise, an “inspired portrayal of human love,” written by an unknown poet after the Babylonian exile in 538 BC.
Sharon is a large valley in Palestine. During King Solomon’s time, Sharon was one of the fertile plains with beautiful flowers. Shulamite, Solomon’s bride, according to Michael Bradley in “Jesus as the Rose of Sharon,” noted that it is she who said “I am the rose of Sharon.”
The New Testament refers to the Church as the bride of Jesus, with Jesus as the bridegroom. This interpretation implies the perfect relationship that God desires between Jesus and men. Jesus, the perfect being in a lover analogy, “describes the personal relationship that He wants.”
Thus, Jesus, the bridegroom, as in normal relationships among man should give us a rose—Himself.
“Jesus is actually referred to as the flower,” the Sharon, for Jesus, indeed is perfect love.
Bread to roses
Saint Didacus of Alcala de Henares in Spain, also known as Saint Diego de San Nicolas, was a hermit before joining the Franciscans as a lay brother.
He loved the poor and was concerned about their sustenance. He often took as much bread as he could carry for them. One day, leaving the seminary with his cloak full of bread, he was challenged to unfold his cloak. He did, and roses, instead of bread, were seen. Although he died of abscess on November 12, 1463, his incorrupt body exuded a fragrant scent.
Saint Germaine Cousin was born in Pibrac, 10 miles from Toulouse, France, in 1579. Born with deformities, her mother died while she was still in the cradle.
Unloved by her father and stepmother she was fed with leftovers and made to sleep under the stairs of the house or in the stable. When she was big enough, she was assigned as shepherdess. She accepted everything with simplicity and faith.
One winter day, her stepmother chased her with a stick accusing her of filling her apron with stolen bread. Ordered to unfold it, fragrant flowers of unknown variety stunned those who saw them. Germaine died at 22. Her incorrupt body for 200 years was destroyed with quicklime during the French Revolution.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was the wife of Louis (Ludwig) of Thuringia and Hesse, now Germany. The first member of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi in Germany, she was kind and generous to the poor and the needy.
In 1225, when Germany was experiencing famine during the king’s absence, she nearly exhausted the palace grain storage of the palace household, a complaint cited by Joan Carroll Cruz in Secular Saints.
Once on a mission of mercy, she was approached by the king to ask what she was concealing in her apron. When she opened her apron, roses, instead of loaves of bread, were seen.
Saint Casilda of Toledo, Spain, was the daughter of a Muslim king. Kind to Christian prisoners, she would hide bread in her clothes for them.
One day, she was apprehended by Muslim soldiers. She had no choice but reveal what she was carrying in her skirt. But it was not bread that the soldiers saw but a bouquet of roses. She lived to be 100 in solitude and penance. She died in 1050.
Damo-Santiago is a former regional director of the Department of Education National Capital Region. She is currently a faculty member of Mater Redemptoris Collegium in Calauan, Laguna, and of Mater Redemptoris College in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
Wow, I never knew about this until now. This is a wonderful read.
Can you help me find out information on this painting by Blaas? I am using it for a paper but I can’t find any info in it.