Lent 4 Mothering Sunday Sermon
The Reverend Canon Charles Royden
The Language of Flowers (Family / All Age Worship)
I was at the local shops yesterday and the busiest shop was the florist. There were lots of people going to buy flowers for mothers. Flowers are big on Mothering Sunday and we will bless flowers today in our service and give them to mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and other women as a way of expressing our appreciation to them for their love and care.
In our special prayer we will say
‘By your blessing let these flowers be symbols of love and thanks to those who we give them’
Flowers play a large role at Christian funerals, baptisms and other special personal events. Flowers are a way of expressing how we feel, flowers have meaning. Of course there is a whole language of flowers. Lots of different religions have imbued certain flowers and plants with special meaning. Literature is full of the language of flowers, William Shakespeare mentioned more than 200 species of plants in his plays. Of course plants and flowers are very prominent in the Bible. The story of creation and what went wrong in the world takes place in a garden called Eden and the apple is used as a symbol of how we have messed things up by not following God’s instructions.
Jesus spoke of how flowers were made beautiful by God and he encouraged us to think about them,
'Consider the lilies of the field how they grow'
Let’s think of a few flowers and their meaning
There are lots of flowers which have special religious association (Show pictures as we go !)
Rosemary - who knows what this plant has been associated with ?
It has been associated with remembrance since ancient Greece when students wore garlands of rosemary whils studying to strengthen their memories. Like many plants its name comes from the Latin, in this case Rosmarinus, ‘which means dew of the sea’ referring to the blue flowers. In Shakespeare’s time it was carried by bridesmaids at weddings and used in funeral wreaths, and it is still left on graves today in our churchyard.
The peony is called the Pentecost Rose because it blooms around the time of Pentecost
Snowdrops are called Candlemas bells because they come out at Candlemas and they are a sign of the coming of Spring
The white Lily (Lilium candidum is called the Madonna Lily, it symbolises purity and medieval pictures often show the Virgin Mary holding these flowers. The Venerable Bede in the 8th Century said that the whiteness of the petals represented her purity and the golden anthers the radiance of her soul
Columbine. This flower has been thought to look like a dove and has therefore been seen to symbolise the Holy Spirit. Columbine is derived from the Latin word for Dove Columba. Seven blooms on a stalk were likened to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit according to Isaiah 11:2
The clower leaf is often used to represent the trinity, with its three leaves. According to tradition, a clover was given as an example of the Trinity by St. Patrick, when he evangelized Ireland, and thus the clover, or shamrock, has become the emblem of Ireland. Another name for the three-leaved clover is ‘trefoil’.
The passion flower is on our Easter card this year
The three pistil stigmas are seen to represent nails. The five stamens are the number of wounds, so that to this day, Catholics in South & Central America call it "The Flower of the Five Wounds." The leaf represents the spear that placed the wound in Jesus's side (that one is a stretch since the leaves are five-lobed, but unlike some other species, this one's individual lobes are at least lance-shaped). The dark spots under the leaves are the 33 pieces of silver paid to Judas. When the flowers are spent after a single day (the time Jesus spent on the cross), the petals do not drop from the vine but re-close over the ovary, & this symbolizes the Hidden Wisdom that constitutes the Mysteries of the Cross, & is like Jesus enclosed in the tomb.
There are ten petals, which are see to represent the disciples. Of course there were 12 disciples and so it has been said that Judas does not have one because he betrayed Jesus and Peter lost his because he denied Jesus! You can see that this is not very scientific, but the point is that it does not matter, we use the flower to stimulate our thoughts and see menaing.
Our next flower it the rose. Roses are full of significance, white ones for purity, red ones as a reminder of the blood of Christ. The rosary is named after the rose. The word rosary comes from Latin (Rosarium) and means a garland of roses, the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary. In the third-century Saint Ambrose believed that there were roses in the Garden of Eden, initially without thorns, but which became thorny after the fall, and came to symbolize Original Sin itself. This is why The Virgin Mary is often referred to as the 'rose without thorns.'
Roses are often associated with martyrdom and Saint Cyprian in the third century encouraged Christians to die for their faith and win the ‘red crown of roses’ Lots of plants have thorns. Roses have lots of thorns !
Hawthorn - Let's finish by continuing to think about thorns. Thorns and thorn branches signify grief, tribulation, and sin. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, thorn bushes suggest the minor sins, and growing briars, or brambles, the greater ones. we have a crown of thorns this morning which has been made from a thorn bush from our woodland burial ground at Keysoe. The crown of thorns with which the soldiers crowned Christ before the Crucifixion was a parody of the Roman emperor's festal crown of roses. The image of Jesus wearing these thorns is a powerful one Jesus carries our thorns, he carries our sins and bears them away with God's forgiveness.