Windows of Salvation – The Lily
Just the other day, I was taking in the beautiful 70 degree day (you know, the one we got before the 10 inches of snow!) and saw a plant starting to bud out of the ground. It was the middle of winter, but this little plant poking its head out from under the dirt was a good reminder that spring was on its way, and new life, growth, and beauty were just around the corner!
Here we are in winter, with snow all around us, and as we look at today’s window, we also have a flower and promise of new life. There seem to be two references made by this symbol. The first is the prophecy of the Messiah from Isaiah 11:1-9, which we heard not too long ago during Advent: “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Jesse was the grandson of one of the great women of the Scriptures, Ruth, and was the father of David, the great king chosen to lead his people Israel.
At the time that this prophecy was written, however, that great family tree was really nothing more than a stump. The once mighty kingdom of David had been split apart, then totally destroyed; the north by the Assyrians, the south by the Babylonians. All hope of the return of the glory days of the Kingdom was long gone. And yet, even from that stump, a new bud was blossoming, new life and beauty was coming. Jesus too was a descendent of Jesse and of David. And as we had been celebrating in Christmas, he would usher in a new kind of Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
The flower of this stump appears to be a lily, which leads to our second symbol. Of course, we remember that during Easter, our church is filled with lilies, but the saint we typically associate with lilies is St. Joseph. The Prophet Hosea wrote that the righteous man, “will blossom like the lily.” (14:6) In some images of St. Joseph (unfortunately, not ours), he is depicted carrying a staff which is sprouting forth with lilies.
This isn’t some random symbol though! There’s a non-canonical story about St. Joseph from the early Church (think of it like a early Christian comic book) that says that the priests of the Temple decided to choose a good suitor for Mary, who had been living in the Temple from an early age. They ordered that all unmarried descendents of David should appear, and Joseph, who was a just and holy man, came as he was instructed. As part of the ritual, he was asked to place a branch on the altar facing the Holy of Holies (remember, where the Ark had been!), when suddenly, the branch blossomed into lilies, indicating that he was chosen by God to wed Mary. This is definitely not an essential part of our faith, but the story at least illustrates what a just man St. Joseph was, and how the line of David was still very much alive and full of hope!O God, how close our salvation seems!
How marvelous your promise of a Messiah who will make all things new! Give us hope and joy that you are bringing new life into the world, and help us to be a sign of hope like St. Joseph!