Blossom Theology

Flower Theology II

– John S. Stokes Jr.

Introduction

In "Flower Theology" (1995) it was shown - for reflection and meditation - how the numerous "Flowers of Our Lady" of the popular religious traditions of the medieval countrysides symbolize the lives and mysteries of Mary and Jesus.

Here it will be shown how flowers, as direct creations of God, are to be seen as mirrors of basic Christian truths.

Christianity sees plants and flowers as created by God to show forth and share with humans the divine goodness, beauty and truth - the purpose of all Creation. In this flowers may be enjoyed simply and directly in themselves as showing forth God's goodness and beauty, or, more fully, as archetypes, signatures, symbols, and bearers of legends, mirroring the revealed articles of Christian faith - thereby serving as means for their teaching, recollection, contemplation and celebration.

Christian Nature Tradition

Christianity has assimilated many of the flower symbols and legends from other world religions, but has ever transformed them in accordance with the unique fullness of the Christian revelation of: the Trinitarian Godhead; the eternity of Creation, the redemptive Divine Incarnation, the building of the earthly Kingdom of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the culminating divine transformation of Creation into an eternal New Heaven and New Earth at the end of time.

Christian nature symbolism is the ultimate fulfillment of the quest of all who seek the religious meaning of nature. The English experience is a case in point. After the Christian flower names and symbolism of the medieval countrysides were, as a consequence of the Reformation, largely excluded from the first printed gardening books in the 16th century, Milton and other writers sought an alternate religious meaning of nature in classical models. Unfulfilled by this, Wordsworth and the romantic poets then sought this religious meaning in poetic imagery drawn from nature itself. Yet, after years of this poetic quest, Coleridge came to the conclusion that he and the other romantic poets only discovered in nature what they put into it - language and poetic imagery having roots in religious scripture and tradition. While this romantic quest for the intrinsic spiritual quality in nature was ultimately unfulfilled, it opened up the sublime appreciation of nature of present-day English gardening tradition, which will provide an exquisitely beautiful and esthetic setting for the eventual rediscovery of the full Christian nature values - supplanting the inadequacy of current secular plant lore and the Victorian sentimentally imaginative "language of flowers".

What follows is a summary of Christian revelation in nature - with some instructive comparisons with religious flower symbolism in other world religious traditions. These other traditions are viewed as repositories of truths carried down from the primordial revelation of Eden and the priesthood of Noah, as filtered through the "turning of the wheel," the confusion of tongues at Babel, and then supplemented by subsequent sustaining and augmenting revelations - in readiness for the culminating revelations of Christianity.

Christian Floral Archetypes

As a starting point will be taken the principal archetypal creedal flower symbols of Christian tradition:

  • The beauty, forms and colors of flowers - showing forth and sharing the pure goodness, beauty and mystery of the creating God, the Father - (Eden, Flowery Meade, Paradise).
  • The upreaching of flowers, especially golden flowers, to the light of the sun - symbols of the turning of hearts and souls to God, the illuminating Holy Spirit (Marigold, Sun Flower).
  • The blossoming of flowers - symbol of the miraculous virgin birth of God the Son, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (Rod of Jesse, Rose, Carnation, Peony, Mistletoe).
  • The seasonal death and rebirth of flowers - symbol of the death and resurrection of the redeeming God, the Son (Easter Lily, Resurrection Flowers).
  • The three-fold forms and colors of flowers and foliage - symbols of the mystery of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Shamrock, Fleur-de-Lis, Pansy, Aloe).
  • The sowing and germination of seed - symbol of the hearing and keeping of the word of God in hearts and souls; and of the rooting of the supernaturally infused virtues and gifts (The Parable of the Sower).
  • The total dependence of flowers on earth, water, air and sun - symbol of total abandonment to God's Providence in human life ("Consider the Lilies")
  • The symbiosis of vines with trees - symbol of the intimate union and close cooperation of Mary with Christ, the redeeming Divine Son - as Mother, Co-redemptrix, Advocate, Intercessor, Mediatrix and Queen. (Mistletoe, Vines).

On entering the Mary Garden mindful of these archetypes and symbols we pray:

"Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts through which you show forth and share with us your divine goodness, beauty and truth."

Signatures

The Christian meaning of nature takes as its starting point the teaching of the Prologue of the Gospel of John that all things in heaven and on earth were created through the Divine Word - with consequent unity and correspondence between the things of heaven and the things of earth: "As above, so below". These correspondences, while present in nature, are to be discovered through the examination of its forms in the light of the truths of religious revelation, as Adam was instructed by God to name the creatures of Eden - not by an empirical examination of nature in itself, however poetic or scientific.

From this is derived the medieval doctrine of "signatures" - of the discoverability in creatures of their showing forth of God's truth, as well as his goodness and beauty, for the fullness of divine sharing with humans - the very purpose of Creation.

The Goodness, Beauty and Truth of Flowers

- The beauty, forms and colors of flowers - showing forth and sharing the pure goodness, beauty and mystery of the creating God, the Father - (Eden, Flowery Meade, Paradise).

While this first of the floral archetypes - the showing forth and sharing in the forms, translucence and colors of flowers of the pure goodness, beauty and mystery of the creating God - would appear to be common to all religious traditions, Christianity is unique in seeing Creation as divinely willed, sustained, redeemed and eternal. This is to be differentiated from Eastern religions which, while they see the world as a mirroring emanation from God, they at the same time see it as ultimately illusory, impermanent and cyclical, and thus eventually to be reabsorbed in God.

The consequence of the Christian revelation of the eternal character of Creation - divinely redeemed and saved for this end - is our call as Christians to work, as co-creators and co-renewers, for the building of God's earthly Peaceable Kingdom, nature's culmination, that on the last day all may be transformed into the new heaven and earth in which we, with our eternal souls and resurrected bodies, are to share eternally in the life and attributes of God, both created and uncreated.

Through the infusion of divine grace, light, wisdom and power, Christian mystics, like those of the Eastern religions, rise in soul from the world of the body and senses to spiritual union with the transcendent one God, in an ecstasy transcending and surpassing that of all natural or chemically induced ecstasy. However, penetrating further into the interior of the crucible of the divine love, Christian mystics then enter into the ultimate union with the three divine persons of the one God therein encountered - revealed exteriorly as the creating Father, the redeeming Son, the sanctifying and renewing Holy Spirit. In union with the will of the Trinity to show forth and share the divine goodness, love and action exteriorly through Creation, Christian mystics then return in soul to earth for the work of building of the culminating Peaceable Kingdom of truth, justice, love and freedom.

This differs from Eastern mysticism, which dwells on the paths through all the subtle, preternatural states, modes and spheres linking God and Creation - that the soul, the subtle nature, may attain ultimate reabsorbtion and rest in God, in liberation from envisaged successive cycles of bodily reincarnation into the world, believed to be an illusory, separative emanation from God. In this is sought the Nirvana of Buddhism, Identity with the Supreme Being of Hinduism, the Eternal Harmony of Taoism, the Paradise of Islam, etc.

Therefore, while Christians respond to the call of the pure goodness and beauty of flowers to rise through and from them into contemplative union with God, in this union they encounter the call of divine will to return to the building of the earthly Peaceable Kingdom - that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven - as distinct from the call of the Eastern religions to a finality of ascent to God in liberation from earth and creatures.

The Upwards Reaching of Flowers

- The upward opening and reaching of flowers, especially golden flowers, to the light of the sun - symbols of the opening of hearts and souls to God, the illuminating Holy Spirit (Marigold, Sun Flower).

The guiding counsel for Christian mystical ascent is the teaching of St. Paul in II Corinthians 12 that when he was caught up mystically into paradise he was instructed by the Lord not to pursue this path, but to do God's will on earth: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." Thus, while God may choose to elevate us mystically to various spiritual levels, for the fullness of the discovery and sharing of his glory, what we are ever to aspire to is the purity of the opening of our hearts and souls to filling with the grace, light, power and wisdom of the Spirit in this world, for our sanctification and for the building of God's Peaceable Kingdom on earth, in accordance with his will.

In the Eastern religions, with their greater emphasis on the return of the soul to God from what is believed to be an illusory Creation, the upwards opening flowers is employed extensively as a symbol of the opening of the soul in various higher states of being encountered on this path. The Christian ascetic/mystical theology of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis de Sales similarly distinguishes the various spiritual modalities through which the rising soul passes, but, following the mystical counsel of St. Paul, does not attribute to them the importance of the Eastern religions. Nevertheless, the Eastern fullness of mystical experience and truth adds sublimely to the Christian mystical sharing and celebration of God's glory.

Kundalini Yoga, of Hinduism, for example, instructs us extensively in the many religious correspondences of flowers. It does this through its teaching and discipline of ascetic/mystical spiritual growth through the successive purifications of seven centers or "Shakras" of the body from the base of the spine to the top of the head - accompanied by the emergence of interior subtle spiritual flowering branches from each. In this, for example, the purification of the three lower centers, corresponds, respectively, to the Christian disciplines of chastity, poverty and obedience. While these Christian disciplines do not require specific knowledge of the formation in grace of various subtle interior flowers which bloom with ascetic progress in mortification and virtue, knowledge of them is helpful for our understanding and appreciation, for example, of the original Communion Verse for the Mass for the feast of the Rosary of Mary (October 7th), established in 1573:

"Send forth flowers as the Lily,
and yield a fragrance,
And bring forth leaves in grace,
and praise with canticles,
And bless the Lord in his works."

Sirach 39:13-14 (Ecclesiasticus 39:18-19)

This in turn contributes to our appreciation of the renaming of the "Psalter of Our Lady" as the "Rosary", which came about as a consequence of "an early legend which after traveling all over Europe, penetrating even to Abyssinia, connected this name with a story of Our Lady, who was seen taking rosebuds from the lips of a young monk when he was reciting Hail Marys and to weave them into a garland which she placed upon her head. A German metrical version of this story is still extant dating from the thirteenth century." (Catholic Encyclopedia (1912) Vol 13, p.187).

As set forth for western readers by Carl Jung in his book on Kundalini Yoga, The Secret of the Golden Flower, the ultimate mystical blooming of the head center is that of an infinite-petaled golden flower whose petals guide the soul upwards to union with the Divinity. This would appear to be the culmination of the archetypal flower symbolism of the rising of the soul to the light of the Holy Spirit, symbolized in art by the halo, and in the garden by the marigold, "Mary's Gold", referring to the rising to God of the glorious soul of Mary, Queen of Mystics.

The Blossoming of Flowers

- The blossoming of flowers - symbol of the miraculous virgin birth of God, the Son, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (Rod of Jesse, Rose, Carnation, Peony, Mistletoe).

This leads to a consideration of the third flower archetype: The virgin birth of God the Son, as symbolized by the blossoming of flowers - especially those with the fleshy fullness of the rose, as distinct from those whose upwards reaching is characteristic.

Here there is a closer similarity between Christianity and the Eastern religions, in which the birth of the Buddha and various Hindu deities, like the birth of Christ, is similarly represented as coming through the opening of the lotus or other flower.

In Christianity, the opening of flowers is the "down to earth" symbolism of the prophecy of Isaiah of the birth of God Incarnate as the blossoming Rod of Jesse. The blossoming vine with flower was thus also seen to represent the birth-giving Blessed Virgin Mary; and in celebration of this, the Church Fathers attributed to her all the flower references in the Sapiential Books of the Bible. This culminated in Dante's image of the Virgin as "the rose wherein the Divine Word became incarnate", centrally portrayed in the images of the Virgin and Child in the Rose Windows of the medieval cathedrals, and in the Christmas carol, "Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming".

Marian flower symbolism was then extended to a "galaxy" of flowers of the medieval countrysides in the traditions of St. Bernard, St. Francis and St. Francis de Sales - a fitting culmination of religious flower symbolism, just as recognition of Mary's position in the divine plan of Creation, Salvation and Kingdom is coming to be seen in the Mind of the Church as a culmination of theology.

From her love of God, of Creation, and of the prophesied coming of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant, the Redeemer of the world, to be born of a virgin, Mary first gave birth to Christ in her heart - symbolized also by the blossoming of the rose - before giving him birth in her womb. As Mother of the Church and Mediatrix of all grace, Mary continues to give birth to Christ in the hearts of others that they may be converted and baptized, as his members.

We pray to Mary that she may make use of us in her giving of birth to Christ in hearts; and in the Mary Garden we are quickened to this as we behold the rose.

The Death and Rebirth of Flowers

- The seasonal death and rebirth of flowers - symbol of the death and resurrection of the redeeming God, the Son (Easter Lily, Resurrection Flowers).

The fourth archtypal symbolism, of the death and rebirth of flowers - their death at the end of the annual growing season and their rebirth when it starts anew - is, from the viewpoint of the manifestation of the essential aspects of divine truth in nature, seen to be of central importance, as the symbol or "signature" of Christ's death and resurrection, and therefore of our own death in Christ, and of our resurrection in him at the Last Judgement culminating this world.

The annual death and rebirth of flowers is at the same time a symbol of their own eternal rebirth, as flowers, in the New Heaven and New Earth at the end of time. For this, through our love of them in Christ - through "charity, which endures forever" - they are, supplementing their existence as heavenly essences, preserved, after their earthly death, in the heavenly Book of Life, through the years of sacred history, as God's creatures and signatures, that they may burgeon forth and share the divine goodness, beauty, truth and mystery, for which they are loved on this earth, with our eternal souls and resurrected bodies forever in the New Heaven and New Earth.

There is indeed a celebration of the Resurrection in the flowers of Easter, but the other half of the archetype - the preceding Lenten mortification, Passion and death of Christ, in which we are also to participate - is less celebrated in nature and the garden.

Pained with the absence of the archetypal sense of the Passion of Christ in a monastery garden he visited, the poet, Brother Antoninus (William Everson), wrote (in Ramparts, September, 1962):

"The entire garden is conceived in the pattern of the Italian Renaissance, and in my sojourn here it has filled me with distinct repugnance. From the first I judged it more fit for the resorts of the world out there than in the very heart of a monastery."

"In a cloister I wanted nothing more for vegetation than the long-bladed cactus that grows in the desert. I wanted it set in otherwise denuded earth, with one of those unforgettable Spanish crucifixes dominating the center. I wanted everything here to evoke, call up and project, yes, cry out the Passion and Death of Our Lord, Jesus, King and Redeemer of men, that we might be called hourly to our own passion, that death of self, that redemption of the interior man, in the eternal crucifixion which is the life of man in God."

While the author was writing in intensely purgative mode, the quotation importantly sets forth the death side of the death and resurrectional archetype of flowers, so little meditated on in the garden.

Always, the teaching of the Resurrection presupposes and derives from, and therefore reinforces, the Christian teaching that Creation is eternal; for it is all Creation which is resurrected on the Last Day.

When the world - created to show forth and share the divine goodness, beauty, truth and action - fell from grace and from its original integrity and harmony, to a state of disequilibrium, illusion, sickness and death, through the self-centered excercise of free will of humans, God, in view of its eternal end, lovingly and mercifully redeemed it through Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection.

Thus redeemed from the evil of the Fall, the world - after the culminative consolidation of Christ's victory over evil through the redemptive participation of those joining their sorrows and sufferings with his for his intentions, through history - will be transformed on the last day into the eternal new heaven and new earth, in which our eternal souls and resurrected bodies will be accompanied by transfigured and regenerated animals, plants, minerals and artifacts showing forth and sharing the divine goodness, beauty, truth and action for all eternity, as originally willed by God.

Three-Fold Forms and Colors of Flowers

- The three-fold forms and colors of flowers and foliage - symbols of the mystery of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Shamrock, Fleur-de-Lis, Pansy, Aloe).

The Irish shamrock, Oxalis acetosella, of St. Patrick and many other "shamrock" plants with three-lobed leaves are seen as symbols of the Trinity; as are many three-petaled flowers such as Trillium; tricolored flowers, such as the wild pansy, or "Trinity Flower"; and the three-leaved growth nodes of the aloe. While all flowers through their beauty and purity serve to raise our thoughts to our one God, the Trinity symbols quicken our garden thoughts to fuller reflection on God as the three Divine Persons: the creating and sustaining Father, the redeeming Son and the sanctifying and guiding Holy Spirit.

The Parable of the Sower

- The sowing and germination of seed - symbol of the hearing and keeping of the word of God in hearts and souls; and the rooting in them of the supernaturally infused virtues and gifts (The Parable of the Sower).

Through the created correspondence of gardens to hearts and souls, the forms and qualities of plants and flowers - especially when worked with daily - serve to impress on the senses and the unconscious imagination psychological matrices or archetypes for the reception and cultivation in the heart and soul of the divinely bestowed spiritual "seeds" (words) of the virtues - as taught in the Gospel Parable of the Sower.

This is especially so when the care of plant life is undertaken out of love - even if there is no familiarity with spiritual plant symbolism, nor belief in the divine infusion of the seeds and roots of the virtues in the soul. In this, plant "signatures" of the growth of the virtues in our hearts and souls serve as illuminative forms which our active imagination psychologically interiorizes as matrices of divinely bestowed spiritual seeds or roots of faith, hope and love and the other virtues.

This natural archetypal impress of signature plants on hearts and souls is enhanced with their sacramental blessing - through which they, like other blest images, "produce...the excitation of pious emotions and affections" (Catholic Encyclopedia) in those who behold or work with them.

Speaking of the interior spiritual rooting of the tree of love in his heart, St. Francis of Assisi says, in "Into love's furnace I am cast":

"The tree of love its roots hath spread
Deep in my heart, and rears its head;
Rich are its fruits: they joy dispense;
Transport the heart, and ravish sense.
In love's sweet swoon to thee I cleave,
Bless'd source of love . . . .

. . . . .

"All creatures love aloud proclaim;
Heav'ns, earth and sea increase my flame;
Whate're I see, as mirror bright
Reflects my lover to my sight;
My heart all objects to him raise;
Are steps to the Creator's praise . . . ."

Consider the Lilies

- The total dependence of flowers on earth, water, air and sun - symbol of total abandonment to God's providence in human life ("Consider the Lilies")

We are instructed by the example of flowers that we are to rely on what God's Providence brings us: for our spiritual growth, for the fulfillment of our obligations in life, and for the building of God's Peaceable Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, in truth, justice, love and freedom. This includes making redemptive use of encountered adversities, diminishments and sufferings in union with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross; rather than living by calculation, strategy, tactics and timing directed to a maximum of worldly pleasure, possessions, advantage, power and acclaim - apart from the goal of Kingdom

Noting that all flowers bloom to perfection in their growth under Providence, we are called to abandonment to Divine Providence for our own, spiritual, perfection. "They never toil nor spin...but not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these".

The Symbiosis of Vines With Trees

- The symbiosis of vines with trees - symbol of the intimate union and close cooperation of Mary with Christ, the redeeming Divine Son - as Mother, Co-redemptrix, Advocate, Intercessor, Mediatrix and Queen. (Mistletoe, Vines)

Mary's fullness with the Holy Trinity, "God with her", necessary for her Divine Maternity, was initiated through her fullness with the overshadowing, indwelling, conceiving Holy Spirit; whereby she became the Mother of God - co-parent, with God the Father, of God the Son incarnate. Her fullness with the Divinity was then further manifested in her intimate union and close cooperation with Jesus as mother, and as companion in his ministry, Passion, and death on the Cross. Marian theology has therefore traditionally derived Mary's other blessed prerogatives from that of her Divine Maternity, the first Marian doctrine dogmatically defined.

Thence have come the definitions of Mary's Perpetual Virginity, symbolized in the Mary Garden by the strawberry, which remains still in flower while in fruit; of her Immaculate Conception, symbolized by the Lily Among the Thorns; and of her Assumption body and soul into Heaven, symbolized by the white Lily, and especially by the Assumption Lily - blooming in northern temperate climates at the time of the liturgical Feast of the Assumption on August 15th.

Development of the further traditional doctrines of Mary's Co-Redemption, Advocacy and Universal Mediation with Christ may likewise be undertaken from the basic viewpoint of Mary's union of fullness with the three persons of the Trinity, implicit in the revelation of her Divine Maternity.

Because all Marian doctrines are derived ultimately from Mary's union with God, we search for a "signature" of this union in nature. The Mistletoe - a traditional Immaculate Conception symbol because of its "miraculous" greening and fruiting in winter - is included here as floral archetype of this union because of the dynamic union symbolized by its growth - by it's symbiotic union with the winter tree trunks - symbols of the Cross - around which it entwines, from which it obtains its sustenance, and with which it seems almost a part.

"Lady-Lords" (Our Lady and Our Lord) - a floral symbol of the Madonna and Child enthroned - the image adopted by the Church as symbol of the Divine Maternity after its definition at the Council of Ephesus - is a more traditional, but less dynamic, union symbol of Christ frontally seated in his Mother's lap.

The Union of the Human with the Divine

The hypostatic union of human nature with the divine nature in the divine person of Christ, true God and true Man, demonstrates the potential of all human nature, created in the divine image and likeness, as a vehicle for the divine action.

Christ was a divine person incarnate in human nature. For there to be a true human sharing of the divine action - in fulfillment of the purpose of Creation - there is to be a sharing of the divine with human persons. The personal accomplishment of this divine-human sharing is found most fully in Mary, providing the basis for our veneration of her and for our recourse to her in the divine plan as co-redemptrix, spiritual mother, protector, advocate, intercessor, mediatrix and Queen of heaven and earth.

This fullness of the divine sharing was accomplished in Mary - in her total love of God and of the divine plan for Creation and humans - through her Immaculate Conception and her fidelity to its graces; through her humble "yes" in response to the angelic call to the virginal conception and motherhood of the Divine Word to be made flesh; and through her fidelity to the graces bestowed on her and through her, "her station keeping," at the foot of the Cross.

Filled with the divinity - through her humble openness and free assent to the bestowed overshadowing, indwelling and espousing of the Holy Spirit of God, for the Divine Motherhood - Mary was united, as has been said, with all three divine persons, to the fullest receptivity and responsiveness of her human nature, created in the image and likeness of God: with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit.

After the accomplishment of Mary's union of filling with the God, the Holy Spirit, and of his conceiving in her of the Son of God, Mary, at the Visitation, then proclaimed in the Magnificat her accompanying union of fullness with God the Father - with his providential guidance of sacred history - virtually actualized through the mystical rising of her soul to union with the eternal heavenly essences of the divine wisdom:

"He has shown might in his arm,
He has scattered the proud
in the conceit of their hearts;
He has put down the mighty from their seats,
and has exalted the humble.
He has received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy,
as he spoke to our Fathers,
to Abraham and the prophets, forever."
(Luke 2: 46-55)

Similarly, Mary was seen by the Church Fathers as also participating, virtually, through the same mystical union, in the Father's action of creating the world, as attested by the application to her in the liturgy of the passage on the created wisdom from Proverbs 8: 22-31:

"The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways,
the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago.
From of old I was poured forth;
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
while as yet the earth and the fields were not made,
nor the first clods of the world.
When he established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should
not transgress his command.
Then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the sons of men."

Similarly, from the application to Mary by the Church Fathers, in the liturgy, and in her litanies, of the scriptural images, "Seat of Wisdom", "House of Gold", "Tower of Ivory" and "City of God", we are instructed that the crafted artifacts of the earthly city - co-creations discovering, further showing forth and applying the divine wisdom, first revealed by direct creations - are matrixed through Mary's continuing actual mediational fullness of sharing of the creational and providential wisdom of the Father.

Mary's mediation, through her fullness of union with God the Father, of Divine Providence has traditionally been symbolized by her heavenly, angelic, mantle with which she, as Queen of Angels, and Queen of Divine Providence, encompasses the faithful to protect us from evil, through her sharing of the divine power. In the Mary Garden Our Lady's protecting mantle is symbolized by several different flowers known as "Our Lady's Mantle".

Mary, Mediatrix and Distributrix of Grace

While Mary's fullness of grace and union with the overshadowing, indwelling, espousing Holy Spirit is first shown by her conception of the Divine Word made Incarnate, it is further manifested in the divine plan by her mediational distribution at Pentecost of the sanctifying and inspiring grace, light, wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit to us, her children, to whom, at the foot of the Cross, she was given as our spiritual mother.

In the Mary Garden, this is symbolized by flowers with serrated petals recalling the pointed tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit, promised by the ascending Christ, descended, through Mary's mediation, on the Apostles in the upper room at Pentecost. Prominent among these flower symbols is "Mary's Pink", adopted both because of its bloom in Holland at the late May or early June season of Pentecost (known there as "Pinkster") because of its pink color; and because of its uniquely serrated symbolic petals, from which garment "pinking shears" receive their name.

Mary as Mediatrix, with Christ

Some question the doctrine of Mary's universal spiritual mediation on the basis that they see it as placing Mary in the position of diminishing or usurping Christ's role as the "one mediator" with the Heavenly Father. In this there is a failure to understand that her sharing in Christ's mediation, like her sharing in his redemption as co-redemptrix, is the initiation in and through her, of the fulfillment of God's purpose for the world of sharing the divine goodness and action with finite human beings.

Mary's Universal Mediation is a consequence not of her personal excellences, but, in her all-consuming love of God, of her humble openness to, her freely willed acceptance of, her filling with, and her total responsive fidelity to the divinely bestowed graces of the priviliges and prerogatives of her Immaculate Conception, her Divine Motherhood, her Perpetual Virginity, her Transfixion, and her glorious Assumption into heaven as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her Universal Mediation does not detract from or usurp Christ's one mediation with the Father; it shares it - in the union of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.

Thus, in the Liturgy of the Roman Rite for the feast of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, May 31st, we pray in the Invitatory: "Christ, the Redeemer, who has willed that we receive all graces through Mary, Come let us adore," and, in the Prayer: "O Lord Jesus Christ...mercifully grant that whosoever draws near to you to beseech your benefits may rejoice to obtain all things through her"

The Necessity of Prayer

Jesus teaches that we are both to work and to pray for the coming of the Father's Kingdom, beginning with the Our Father, the Lord's Prayer. In this we are to "watch" and pray, that we may discern personal and social moments of openness and receptivity through which God's bestowed grace may be chosen by free wills. For the fullest progress towards Kingdom we are to honor St. Paul's exhortation to "pray always". And by praying for the blessing of our work through Mary's mediation, we pray with the confidence that our prayers, in addition to petitioning the necessary divine guidance, will at the same time provide an opportunity for Mary, thus petitioned, to extend the exercise of her ordained sharing in the divine action as Mediatrix - in each mediation further extending the sharing of the divine with humans in accordance with the purpose for Creation.

While praying for the blessing of our work for the coming of God's Kingdom, we at the same time ever continue our prayers of divine praise, adoration and mystical union with the Trinity, so that we may remain in the closest conformity with the imperative of the divine will for Creation and Kingdom. In this we emulate Mary, of whom it is said, in the words of the lesson in the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast of Mary's Queenship, August 22nd:

"while still in the flesh, at one moment she withdrew to God in ecstasy; at the next she would bend down to her neighbors with indescribable love. In heaven angels served her, while here on earth she was venerated by the service of men. . . . And both obeyed her with loving devotion."
With Mary now ascended into Heaven, we in our earthly work for Kingdom prayerfully sustain our heavenly mystical union both with the Trinity and the divine will for Creation and Kingdom, and also with Mary and her heavenly mediation of the distribution of the divine grace, light, wisdom and power for the building of God's Kingdom, in accordance with the divine will, "on earth as it is in heaven."

In the Garden

On initially entering and beholding the entire garden, we are first reminded of the Garden of Eden, of Creation, and of the purpose of Creation: the showing forth and sharing with us - here through flowers - of the divine goodness, beauty and truth, and of our divine call to participation as co-creators, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in the filling of the earth and the building of the eternal Kingdom of God. In this the shamrock, pansy, trillium and aloe quicken reflection on the Trinity of divine persons in the one God; and the rose, peony, carnation and other full-fleshed flowers quicken us to reflection on the redemptive Incarnation of God the Son.

The growth of all the plants of the garden from seeds and roots keep us mindful, in accordance with the Parable of the Sower, of the need for our loving, mortified reception and cultivation in our hearts and souls of the seeds and roots of the supernatural gifts and virtues necessary for progress in the ascetic/mystical ascent of our souls toward union with God and with the divine will for Creation and Kingdom ("Gardening With Mary").

In this, spent blooms, shriveled leaves, dead plant branches, and other plant damage remind us of Christ's death, resurrection, and re-opening of the world to grace, which make possible our growth in spiritual virtue and our mystical rising to union with God and God's will.

The many flower symbols of Mary's Rosary mysteries quicken us to reflection and meditation on them "that by imitating what they contain, we may obtain what they promise" ("Flower Theology" and "The Garden Way of the Rosary").

And as we thus grow into ever closer and more loving union with God and Mary, we are moved to conform our lives with ever increasing fervor to the implementation of "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" of the Lord's Prayer. In this we become ever more aware of our need for openness and attunement to the quickenings, promptings and inspiration of the processing, spirating Holy Spirit, through whom the renewal of the face of the earth and the building of God's Peaceable Kingdom are to be accomplished - in accordance with the "Come Holy Spirit", and in emulation of the opening and reaching of flowers to the light.

That we may have custody of heart, and quiet, waiting on the movements of the Holy Spirit, we - "considering the lilies" - abandon ourselves with equanimity to what Providence will bring us to do and suffer during the coming day. Then, quickened by violets and other low, hidden plants to emulate Mary's humility, we empty ourselves of our own inclinations and interests, for full, humble responsiveness to the Spirit.

In our call to collaborative, co-creative participation in the building of God's earthly Kingdom, we pray for the mediation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Mother of Good Counsel, for our spiritual guidance in making the decisions and in undertaking initiatives leading most immediately to that end - ever mindful, through the mistletoe and other symbiotic or tree-encircling vines of Mary's intimate union, close collaboration and fullness of sharing with Christ, the one Mediator.

For matters arising during the day requiring spiritual discernment and elections, we turn to the "Spiritual Exercises" of St.Ignatius of Loyola and the mediation of Our Mother of Consolation. In this, we first compose ourselves in spiritual quiet and custody of heart, considering the alternatives before us directly in themselves, and noting by self-examination which, as considered, is accompanied by a grace of spiritual consolation - indicating that it is the one to be chosen or elected.

If such a discerning consolation is not experienced therein, we then repeat the exercise - considering the alternatives more broadly from the viewpoint of the purpose of Creation and the movement of the world in history towards the earthly Kingdom; or finally, from the viewpoint of their expression and implementation of the Divine Love.

The key to spiritual discernment is our emulation of Mary's humility, symbolized by the modest lowly violet - the humility through which her spirit "rejoiced in God (her) Savior" (Magnificat); the humility opening us so "that we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in His consolation" (Come, Holy Spirit).

Thus attuned to and inflamed by God's will, we return from the Mary Garden to our life in the world, praying:

"All for you my Jesus, through Mary, for the love of Creation, Salvation and Kingdom - for all eternity."

Copyright Mary's Gardens 1998


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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