Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Botanical Thoughts from a Southerner

I have always wondered why churches use lilies, of all flowers, for the feast of the Resurrection (Easter) and Poinsettias for the Feast of the Incarnation (Christmas). While pretty, both are considered weeds the other 364 days a year, at least where I grew up in the South. Perhaps other regions of the country do not consider them as weeds the other days of the year.

I won't get into the the bizarre symbolism of the Christmas poinsettia in this blog. Suffice is to say that nothing says the Incarnation of the Nativity like a poisonous plant that will hospitalize you if taken internally. I don't think the Scripture that says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" was referring to the Christmas poinsettia.

Ironically, before WWII, Easter lilies were almost solely imported from Japan. Of course, the War put a stop to that, and Americans started their own Easter lily industry. Japan never really recovered their monopoly on Easter lilies thereafter. More on that can be read here.

I understand the theological import of the lily in Scripture, particularly in the Psalms and the Sermon on the Mount. The whiteness theologically represents the purity of life ever lasting and the Virgin Mary, etc. Personally, I hope the Virgin Mary didn't stink like the Lily. They are so sweet, it makes the priest and deacon up at the altar on Easter morning nauseous and leaving all the fine white Easter vestments covered in pollen as if the chasuble was a grand liturgical Q-tip.

Personally, if I were to pick a plant for liturgical use on Easter, it would be Kudzu. My readers from more temperate climates hopefully have never experienced the joy that is Kudzu.  If anything is symbolic enough to proclaim the Resurrection from the most horrendous death that the Roman Empire could devise, it is Southern Kudzu.  Ironically, kudzu is also an import from Japan, as is the Easter Lily.

The story of Kudzu is interesting, and somewhat theologically analogous to the story of Jesus. Kudzu was introduced into the United States as a food source that could be used to feed farm animals during hard economic times. Ironically, once introduced, the animals to which it was supposed to feed would not touch it, so it moved on to other venues and flourished, ultimately devouring the Empire that tried hard to persecute it out of existence.

Just my three cents about Easter botany.

Price adjusted for inflation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At my last church, the altar guild "castrated" (their term) the lilies by removing the little pollen things. No impossible to remove yellow smears.

Plus, those kind of lilies actually bloom in July, at least up north.

If only all the world were both grammatically and botanically correct, I would be a happy camper.