720. O, the month of May, the merry month of may… ~Thomas Dekker

Ho! the merrie first of Maie
Brings the daunce and blossoms gaie
To make of lyfe a holiday!
~Old English saying

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Thousands of years ago winter was a time to honor death and the summer a time to honor life. In those ancient times the short days, grey skies, and cold temperatures began to wear people down and that coupled with a gradual decline in food supplies took its toll on their spirits. Indeed winter was a very difficult time for the ancients, and so the coming of summer brought them great hope. As the crops and grasslands became full of life again, the animals bred, and the warmth of the sun thawed out the earth and their spirits, they celebrated the cross-over and coming change in the human cycle that reflected the turning of the seasons. It was a time for celebrating the forces of life overcoming death, light overcoming darkness, and summer overcoming winter.

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Thus began the dancing around the May pole. A kind of maypole dance, with origins in the 18th century, began as a traditional artistic dance popular in Italy and France. Eventually, traveling troupes performed it in London theaters, thus bringing this traditional dance to larger audiences. An English teacher training school adopted the maypole dance and soon it had spread across most of central and southern England. The dance became part of the repertoire of physical education for girls and remained popular in elementary schools in both England and the US well into the 1950’s.

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I remember in elementary school making May baskets and flowers out of coloredl pieces of construction paper and crepe paper. Today May Day has many different meanings, if any, but it eventually found its place in Christianity. And though considered quaint now, in decades past, like dancing around the maypole, as the month of April rolled to an end, people begin gathering flowers and candies and goodies to put in May baskets to hang on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones on May 1st. And there were even rules about the basket tradition:

1.  Giving was supposed to be anonymous. Reciprocity was not expected. One was to leave the basket on the doorknob or doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run.
2.  Children were to give to grownups, instead of the other way around. On almost every other holiday, only the child receives gifts; so they don’t get to experience the true joy of unselfish giving.

He(Jesus) told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near…” ~Luke 21:29-30   ✝

**Images via Pinterest and the Internet; collages created by Natalie

645. And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, new created. ~D. H. Lawrence

In slumber we fall into the deep, silent waters of consciousness, and then something, somewhere beneath the surface stirs us back to wakefulness. The same thing is happening now in my slumbering, wintry garden. A divine force or spark is stirring life back into seemingly lifelessness.

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A spark.  A flame.  A fire. A seed.  A plant.  A flower.  An egg.  An embryo.  A life. What is it that stirs matter and spirit?  What is it that stirs us?  What moves us?  What is it that makes life taste bitter or sweet upon the tongue?  What things do we feel that can’t quite be put into words?

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The following poem was written by Wallace Stevens. In it, his is the voice of questioning meant to refute religion/Christianity, and yet his images are the kinds of things that stir me in the opposite direction by rousing and impassioning my faith and belief in Christ. So it seems to me that Stevens, even in his attempt at denial, was himself somehow stirred by things in nature not wholly of this world, And I also have to wonder what exactly he thinks a soul is? Is not the soul that which connects mortal man to the Holy One who made us? Isn’t it the piece of God in us?

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Sunday Morning

What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch,
These are the measures destined for her soul.
~Wallace Stevens

For God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction. ~Job 33:14-16   ✝

470. The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

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.
~John S. Stokes, Jr.

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Mary’s Gold they were called and the “golden gifts” of Calendula were offerings to the Virgin Mary by the poor who had not actual gold to give her. In the late Middle Ages some of the churches started designing actual gardens devoted entirely to Mother Mary. Marigolds and other flowers associated with her were planted in the Marian Gardens. Those flowers represented significant events in Mary’s life as well as her virtues, and the purpose of the gardens was to provide a place for worshippers to meditate and pray. All gardens or any flowery place for that matter seem to me to be an excellent setting for prayer, praise, and contemplation. So with my little photographic collage of summery yellow flowers, I’m offering up a piece of written text by John O’Donohue as a Celt’s food for thought this week.

May you recognize in your life, the presence, power and light of your soul. May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference. May your realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening. May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. ~Psalm 119:15   ✝

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. With all Creation I sing: Praise to the King of Kings. You are my everything, and I will adore you!”(From Revelation Song by Phillips, Craig, and Dean)

 

424. Holy Spirit–You’re the Live in being alive, the Be in every creature’s being, the Breathe in every breath on earth. ~St. Hildegard von Bingen

We praise You for these gifts,
Light-giver,
Sound of joy,
Wonder of being alive,
Hope of every person,
and our strongest Good.
~St. Hildegard von Bingen

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purpleliciousness
color of robe given Christ
in passion’s demand
~Natalie Scarberry

The flower in my photograph is a passion flower (passiflora incarnata.) Besides being breathtakingly beautiful there was a time long ago when Catholic missionaries connected certain aspects of the passion flower with Christian beliefs. To them the ten petals of the flower represented the ten apostles in Christianity excluding St. Peter and Judas. The vines of the plant symbolized the whips that were used during the flagellation of Christ. One of the major characteristics is the hundreds of filaments on the flower that symbolized the Crown of Thorns. The five anthers were associated with the five sacred wounds of Christ. The flower contains three stigmas that reflected the three nails that were used for Christ’s hands and feet during his Crucifixion. There is a floral component that resembles a chalice-like ovary that has been supposed to symbolize the Holy Grail. The religious symbolism and associations that had been brought to attention once gave the missionaries faith and comfort for their efforts in spreading Christianity to the indigenous cultures of South America. The Jesuit Missionaries transported color drawings and dried versions of the plant back to their country where a Spanish herbalist named Nicolas Monardes was the first to document the plant and write about the qualities of the flower, indicating that it was a powerful plant and that it carried a symbolic relationship with Christianity.

The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe. ~John 19:2   ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace! Like Saint Hildegard Lord, may I too be a feather on your holy breath and spread, like seeds, the gospel abroad.

 

313. And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have dipped again in God, and new-created. ~Excerpt from a poem by D. H. Lawrence

The last fling of winter is over…
The earth, the soil itself,
has a dreaming quality about it.
It is warm now to the touch;
it has come alive;
it hides secrets that in a moment,
in a little while, it will tell.
~Donald Culross Peattie

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In winter the earth sleeps peacefully and sinks “in good oblivion” as it readies itself for another spring.  Then morning after morning upon arrival of the vernal equinox, the “new-opened flowers dipped again in God, ” as it were, appear.  It seems to me to be the same for us in the changing seasons of our lives for we, too, are dipped again in God whenever we are “new-created” for the next phase of our lives.

“…then I must know that still I am in the hands of the unknown God,
He is breaking me down to His own oblivion
to send me forth on a new morning, a new man.”
~Excerpt from same poem by D. H. Lawrence

In early civilizations the fact that food supplies were soon to be restored was one of the reasons spring’s coming was especially revered.  Later on it became significant with the spread of Christianity because Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the vernal equinox.  Thus springtime reveals the hidden secrets of the soil, and the risen Christ reveals the secrets hidden in our souls if we but follow Him and listen.

The secret things belong to the Lord, our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.  ~Deuteronomy 29:29   ✝

152. A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. ~Chinese Proverb

Under a lawn, than skies more clear,
Some ruffled Roses nestling were,
And snuggling there, they seem’d to lie
As in a flowery nunnery;
They blush’d, and looked more fresh than flowers
Quickened of late by pearly showers. . .
~Robert Herrick, 17th century English poet

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As you can see in my photographic “nunnery,” the “sisters” are all roses, but all are not wearing the same “habit.”  They all have petals, but the number of petals is not the same.  They’re all pink, but it is not the same shade of pink.  They all start out as not-so-different buds, but when open they do not all look alike.  Even the scents are not all the same.  However, there are those who been known to say, like I did at one time, that all roses are more or less the same.  But “a rose is a rose is a rose” is simply not the case.  When I fell in love with gardening, I started learning about the many varieties of roses, and after growing them I realized that each species has its own unique personality and appearance.  What surprised me the most was that according to fossil findings the roses we see today are the descendants of ones that have been growing for over 35,000,000 years.  It wasn’t until after prehistoric times, though, that treks of one kind or another began to spread them all around the world.  These early migrations are reported to have originated in places like Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China.  Then later on many of them traveled along with the spread of Christianity because monks would move them from one monastery garden to another during the Crusades, and it was some of those early Christians who identified the five petals of the single rose (lower right photo) with the five wounds of  the Messiah.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved. . .  ~2 Corinthians 2:15