Flowers, besides being beautiful, have often been used in Christian tradition to signify virtues and remind us of the saints. For example, consider this brief meditation of St. Augustine on the virtues related to our state in life:
I tell you again and again, my brethren, that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of his martyrs. In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of him is true: He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (Sermo 304, 1-4: PL 38, 1395-1397).
In addition, a number of flowers trace their name to the Virgin Mary. The marigold, most often a bright yellow color, is a shortened version of “Mary’s gold.” The carnation is a corruption of the word “coronation”; these flowers were often used to crown statues of Mary. The herb rosemary is said to honor Mary’s title Rosa Mystica, (Mystical Rose). The beautiful Lady’s Slipper was shortened from “Our Lady’s Slipper.”
Consider, too, this old Dutch carol from the 17th century, which links various virtues to flowers in the garden of King Jesus:
King Jesus has a garden, full of diverse flowers
Where I go cutting bright bouquets, all times and hours.
There, naught is heard but Paradise bird,
Harp, dulcimer, lute,
With cymbal, trump and timbral,
And the tender, soothing flute.
The Lily, white in blossom there, is Chastity:
The Violet, with sweet perfume, Humility.
The lovely Damask-rose is known as Patience:
The bright and sturdy Marigold, Obedience.
The Crown Imperial also blooms in yonder place,
`Tis Charity, of stock divine, the flower of grace.
Yet, mid the brave, the bravest prize of all may claim
The Star of Bethlem—Jesus—blessed be his Name.
Ah! Jesu Lord, my heal and weal, my bliss complete,
Make thou my heart thy garden-plot, fair, trim and neat.
–Traditional Dutch, from Geestlijcke Harmonie, 1633; tr. George Woodward in Songs of Syon, 1908.
A few years back I made a video that features a rendition of this carol. I hope you’ll enjoy the music and the beautiful flowers and celebrate the virtues in the garden of King Jesus.