Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Sea of Galilee at Sunrise

Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Flowers for Mary, Legends and Gardens

Last week I planted seeds for flowers in pots on my balcony. If they were not too old and if the soil wasn’t too bad, the result should be a beautiful sight for people passing by. Sadly, I have more of a black thumb than a green thumb!

In the northern hemisphere, May is the lovely spring month when earth comes to life again after a cold, barren winter when many trees and flowers appear to be dead and animals hibernate. Spring is a fitting time to celebrate the beautiful mother whose Son offers us eternal life. Mary is fittingly called Queen of May.

Chaucer called Mary “the flower of flowers.” This Old Testament verse was applied to her: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1).  More than 700 flowers and plants have been named for her. In medieval days legends and love for Mary brought forth Mary gardens where flowers and herbs related to her were planted. Today the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and some parishes grow a “Mary garden” with flowers such as the following:

Lily – Mary’s purity. The gold stamens surrounded by the white petals stand for Jesus or for Mary’s holiness.

Rose – Its beauty, fragrance, and thorns signify Mary’s role in salvation history. Mary is called Mystical Rose. White roses stand for her joys; red for her sorrows, and yellow for her glories.

Iris – Its deep-blue symbolizes Mary’s fidelity, and its blade-shaped leaves denote her sorrows. The iris is the fleur-de-lis of France.

Gladiolus – Its sword-shaped leaves symbolize Mary’s sorrows. Gladiolus is Latin for “sword.”

Baby’s Breath – Mary’s innocence and purity as well as the breath of the Holy Spirit

Ivy (evergreen) – Mary’s faithfulness

Violets – Mary’s humility and innocence. Legend: When Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of he Lord,” violets blossomed outside her window and the Angel Gabriel blessed them as he left.

Blue Columbine – Our Lady’s slipper. Legend: It sprang up where Mary stepped on the way to Elizabeth.

Marigold (Mary’s gold) –  Named for Mary, it symbolizes her simplicity and domesticity as well as her sorrows because of its strong scent like burial ointments and because sometimes it “weeps” in the morning. Legend: Thieves who stole Mary’s purse on the Flight into Egypt found it full of marigolds.

Rosemary (Rose of Mary) – Legend: It turned blue after Mary en route to Egypt spread the Baby Jesus’ clothes out to dry on it.

Thistle – Our Lady’s thistle. Legend: The leaves of the plant became spotted when drops of milk fell on them while Mary was nursing Jesus.

Lavender – Jesus’ swaddling clothes

Sea Pink or Sea Thrift – Legend: On the flight into Egypt these soft flowers formed a cushion for Mary to rest.

Fuchia – Our Lady’s ear-drops (earrings) Legend: The Holy Child at play hung them from Mary’s ears.

Daisy – Legends: It bloomed at the foot of the manger. Or was another “star” sign for King Melchior; on seeing it, the stable door opened.

Hostas “Assumption Lilies”  – In late summer a tall, thin stalk emerges from the leaves and becomes a flower, a reminder of Mary’s Assumption.

Other flowers that are compared to things belonging to Mary:

Bleeding Heart . . . . . . . Heart of Mary

Forget-me-not . . . . . . . Mary’s eyes

Cornflower . . . . . . . . . .  Mary’s crown

Sweet Scabius . . . . . . . Mary’s pincushion

Peony . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary’s rose

Morning Glory  . . . . . Our Lady’s mantle

Periwinkle . . . . . . . . . The Virgin’s flower (blue)

Foxglove . . . . . . . . . . Our Lady’s gloves or thimble

Parsley . . . . . . . . . . . Our Lady’s lace

Larkspur, Lily of the Valley . . . . Mary’s tears

Sage ­. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Mary’s shawl

Daffodil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary’s star

Sweet Woodruff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Our Lady’s bedstraw that lined the manger

Bluebells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Our Lady’s thimbles

You might visit a Mary garden near you or plant one yourself at your home or parish. Plant a miniature Mary garden in your house or on your patio or balcony. Grow the flowers and herbs in a planter or terrarium.

• How have you taken advantage of God’s gift of flowers?

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