June is a beautiful month. You might call me prejudiced, though, since it’s my birth month. I have so many fond memories of this time of year, late spring: fragrant lilacs blooming on the bush in our back yard and then making their way to a vase on the kitchen table, the end of the school year, and breezes coming through the house with force enough to slam doors are some of these memories.
June, however, is also known for roses. In the June issue of our St. Anne’s Newsletter, The Broadcaster, one of our writers shared about the symbolism of the rose. I’d like to include her findings here.
“In Catholic symbolism, the rose appears many times. The red rose is a symbol of martyrdom. The white rose is a symbol of purity (since the earliest years of the church).
St. Ambrose told how the rose came to have thorns. He related that the rose grew in Paradise without thorns, long before it was ever seen on earth. It was after the fall of man that the rose grew thorns to remind people of their sinfulness and fall from grace. God allowed its beauty and aroma to remain in order to remind people of a splendid Paradise.
The Virgin Mary is called ‘A Rose without Thorns’ because she was exempt from original sin. In Renaissance art works, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin is represented by a garland of roses. St. Elizabeth of Hungary is indicated by an apron full of roses, while St. Dorothea of Cappadocia is identified by a basket full of roses and apples. Wreaths of roses worn by angels and saints indicate heavenly joy. When the Pope sent a golden rose to people of importance, it represented a special Papal blessing. This ancient custom dates back as far as Pope Gregory I.
The Glastonbury Rose, or Christmas Rose, is said to have sprouted when Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Briton during the first century and stuck his staff into the ground and it miraculously bloomed. This rose has become the symbol for the Mother of God and the Infant King, who came to earth to be crowned with thorns as part of His Passion and Death. The Glastonbury rose has an exquisite flower but it also has the sharpest thorns, like those braided into the Passion crown. And, since there are no coincidences with God, this special rose blooms just before dawn on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.
Before Joseph of Arimathea sprouted the Glastonbury rose, Christians drew roses that looked like a five-pointed star and made beautiful roses in stained glass windows. Today, the Glastonbury rose is still replicated in church windows and there is a mystical rose template so that entire quilts can carry on this pattern.” (Betty Canavan)
In thinking of this Christian symbolism of the rose, I was reminded of a poem we read in a college literature class.
I see His Blood upon the Rose
By Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887–1916)
I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.
All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.