The Lily. The symbol of the Virgin Mary.
Drawn by Rudolf Koch. Courtesy of Arion Press.
The flora encompasses an amazing array of life forms from algae, fungi, mushrooms and lichens, from tiny floating plants to herbs, shrubs and vines, to colossal trees. About 300,000 species of vascular plants grow upon this earth, with leaves, flowers, and fruits of varying shape, size, and color.
The color green reminds us of the shamrock that St. Patrick used to teach the Irish people about the Holy Trinity, three leaflets in one leaf, three Persons in one God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us to green pastures. He is the Vine and we are the branches. May we cooperate with divine grace, share in His Life abundantly, and bear good fruit.
As colorful flowers bloom and spread their color and fragrance over the earth, may we cultivate our talents and gifts to do the work God has created us to do and to share with those in need. May the Word of God find fertile soil within our hearts and may we cultivate our souls that we may yield a good harvest of life and goodness. May God inspire us so that our work can become a prayer. May we build up the Kingdom of God, as the seed that grows into the tree to shelter many birds. How wonderful is our God who provided us with plants for food, shelter, clothing, and medicine.
It (the dove) returned in the evening, holding in its beak a green leaf from an olive tree. Noah knew that the water was finally going down.
The king's personal servant told Joseph, "In my dream I saw a vine with three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its grapes became ripe..."
But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River.
There an angel of the LORD appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up.
Numbers 17: 8
The next day when Moses went into the tent, flowers and almonds were already growing on Aaron's stick.
It's like a grove of palm trees or a garden beside a river. You are like tall aloe trees that the LORD has planted, or like cedars growing near water.
Once the trees searched for someone to be king; they asked the olive tree, "Will you be our king?" But the olive tree replied, "My oil brings honor to people and gods. I won't stop making oil, just to have my branches wave above the other trees." Then they asked the fig tree, "Will you be our king?" But the fig tree replied, "I won't stop growing my delicious fruit, just to have my branches wave above the other trees." Next they asked the grape vine, "Will you be our king?" But the grape vine replied, "My wine brings cheer to people and gods. I won't stop making wine, just to have my branches wave above the other trees." Finally, they went to the thornbush and asked, "Will you be our king?" The thornbush replied, "If you really want me to be your king, then come into my shade and I will protect you. But if you're deceiving me, I'll start a fire that will spread out and destroy the cedars of Lebanon."
1 Chronicles 16:33
Then every tree in the forest will sing joyful songs to the LORD. He is coming to judge all people on earth.
Psalm 72:16 (NIV)
Let grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon;
let it thrive like the grass of the field.
... and the fields to rejoice
with all of their crops.
Then every tree in the forest
will sing joyful songs
I had flower gardens and orchards full of fruit trees. And I had pools where I could get water for the trees.
Song of Solomon 1:14
... you are flower blossoms from the gardens of En-Gedi.
Song of Solomon 2:1
I am merely a rose
from the land of Sharon,
a lily from the valley.
Song of Solomon 4:13–14
Your arms are vines, covered with delicious fruits and all sorts of spices—henna, nard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, and aloes—all the finest spices.
Song of Solomon 6:11
I went down to see if blossoms were on the walnut trees, grapevines, and fruit trees.
Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Isaiah 27:6 (NIV)
In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.
Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers.
I will fill the desert with all kinds of trees—cedars, acacias, and myrtles; olive and cypress trees; fir trees and pines.
Either cedar, cypress, oak, or any tree from the forest may be chosen. Or even a pine tree planted by the woodcarver and watered by the rain.
Wood from Lebanon's best trees will be brought to you—the pines, the firs, and the cypress trees. It will be used in my temple to make beautiful the place where I rest my feet.
All kinds of birds will find shelter under the tree, and they will rest in the shade of its branches.
There was once a cedar tree in Lebanon with large, strong branches reaching to the sky. This tree had plenty of water to help it grow tall, and nearby streams watered the other trees in the forest. But this tree towered over those other trees, and its branches grew long and thick. Birds built nests in its branches, and animals were born beneath it. People from all nations lived in the shade of this strong tree. It had beautiful, long branches, and its roots found water deep in the soil. None of the cedar trees in my garden of Eden were as beautiful as this tree; no tree of any kind had such long branches. I, the LORD, gave this tree its beauty, and I helped the branches grow strong. All other trees in Eden wanted to be just like it.
Trees will grow on you mountains of Israel and produce fruit for my people, because they will soon come home.
Fruit trees will grow all along this river and produce fresh fruit every month. The leaves will never dry out, because they will always have water from the stream that flows from the temple, and they will be used for healing people.
It was covered with leaves and heavy with fruit—enough for all nations. Wild animals enjoyed its shade, birds nested in its branches, and all creatures on earth lived on its fruit.
Jonah 4:6–7, 10
The LORD made a vine grow up to shade Jonah's head and protect him from the sun. Jonah was very happy to have the vine, but early the next morning the LORD sent a worm to chew on the vine, and the vine dried up. ... But the LORD said: You are concerned about a vine that you did not plant or take care of, a vine that grew up in one night and died the next.
Everyone will find rest beneath their own fig trees or grape vines, and they will live in peace. This is a solemn promise of the LORD All-Powerful.
Instead, I will make sure that your crops are planted in peace and your vineyards are fruitful, that your fields are fertile and the dew falls from the sky.
Cry, you cyprus trees! The glorious cedars have fallen and are rotting. Cry, you oak trees of Bashan! The dense forest has been chopped down.
When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.
An ax is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into a fire.
Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree. Birds even come and nest on its branches.
Many people spread clothes in the road, while others put down branches which they had cut from trees.
Look how the wild flowers grow! They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of these flowers.
Jesus replied: If you had faith no bigger than a tiny mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to pull itself up, roots and all, and to plant itself in the ocean. And it would!
Then Jesus told them a story: When you see a fig tree or any other tree putting out leaves, you know that summer will soon come. So, when you see these things happening, you know that God's kingdom will soon be here.
John 12:13 (NIV)
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"
John 15:1, 5
Jesus said to his disciples: I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. ... I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.
Nicodemus also came with about seventy-five pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night.
One olive tree is on the right side and another on the left of the oil container.
These two witnesses are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand in the presence of the Lord who rules the earth.
Then it flowed down the middle of the city's main street. On each side of the river are trees that grow a different kind of fruit each month of the year. The fruit gives life, and the leaves are used as medicine to heal the nations.
You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
—St. Bernard (1090–1153), Epistle 106.
There's not a plant or flower below,
but makes Thy glories known...
—Isaac Watts. I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Praise for Creation and Providence) .
Flowers laugh before thee upon their beds
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
And the most ancient heavens, through thee, are fresh and strong.
—William Wordsworth. Ode to Duty (l. 45–48).
Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of the character, though few can decypher even fragments of their meaning.
—Lydia M. Child (1802–1880). Letter: 1 September 1842. Letters from New York, vol. 1, letter 26 .
Flowers ... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882). "Gifts," Essays, Second Series .
Through basic and applied sciences at universities, botanical gardens, arboretums, forests, and herbaria, may we better study plants and fungi and their environments so as to develop a better understanding of their growth and survival, and ours too. May God inspire people to rediscover and share knowledge of plant use for food and medicine. Do we ever pause to recall where each dish at the table comes from? Food can be better transported to those who are hungry in the world. Facilities in developing countries could be improved to preserve and store surplus harvests. Do we contribute to feeding the poor and hungry? Do we provide them with the means to cultivate land and grow crops, and raise fish or farm animals? How can we better provide medicine and proper health care to the sick wherever they are in our world including the poorest nations? In turn, we can learn more about native and traditional food and medicinal uses of plants. Ecological tourism can provide a livelihood for developing societies.
Pressed flower of Anemone coronaria L. from the Holy Land: (collector: J. E. Dimsmore 339, 2339 (Gray Herbarium), Jerusalem, 31 January 1903). Flowers of this species were identified on photographs of the Shroud of Turin (see Danin, A. et al. 1999).
(c) 2002. Anthony R. Brach