Spiritual Flowers  by Penelope Dawson-Brown


The recent flower festival in Lastingham church was indeed a delight to behold and embraced much about the meaning of plants as well as the chosen saints; lilies and roses were plentiful. Since early Christianity they have symbolized the love and purity associated with the Virgin Mary. Consider the

early images of Mary when she is often shown holding a lily or seated next to one in a vase? Indeed, the beautiful pure white Madonna lily took its name after her. If you look at early paintings of Mary with a rose you will notice that the stems are smooth and this is because she was sometimes referred to as 'rose without thorns'. While the white rose denoted purity the blood-red rose was a symbol of martyrdom. Irises, although rarely, are also sometimes used as a symbol of the Virgin Mary.


The lovely columbine is a symbol of the Holy Spirit because its structure is supposed to resemble a dove.  Its name hails from the Latin name columba meaning dove. Violets are a symbol of humility and this is because they are small and grow close to the ground. They are also associated with the Virgin

Mary through her humility in accepting the motherhood of God, and also with Christ in accepting humanity. In later paintings, not necessarily religious ones, violets and pansies represented thought and faithfulness and were often included in portraits of young women who held them close to their

hearts. The following is taken from a sixteenth century sonnet:


'Violet is for faithfulnesse

Which in me shall abide;

Hoping likewise that from your heart

You will not let it slide'


In Christian imagery, the narcissus symbolizes divine love yet this conflicts with the Greek myth of a beautiful young man called Narcissus who, in Ovid's poem, pined away while admiring his own reflection in a pool of water. The gods turned him into the flower which today bears his name. Our native daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus often referred to as the Lent Lily because it flowers at Easter time, flourishes in this beautiful part of North Yorkshire, especially on the banks of the River Dove at Farndale and the river Seven.  Some say the monks brought bulbs from Europe when they came to settle here. In ancient times this delightful wild flower was said to cause headaches, even madness, which is perhaps why it is not eaten by sheep.


Churches and flowers go hand in hand. They are nature's jewels and we all love to see them beautifully arranged in God's house. Let us not forget the diminutive clover with its three leaves in a single plant, the symbol of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.


You have received this loud and clear!