…Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you…
<The ground> will produce thorns and thistles for you.
Perched on the high end of its
spinal stalk the brain blooms
like a pink cabbage rose
Peel back the blunt bone like a bud—
it will be meaty to touch, the
corolla folding in, folding in to echo
within the sepal skull
a blink of light, logarithms, a view
of ships in harbor, a word just now
rescued by memory, clipped arbor vitae
how it smells—spiced
Here God lives, burrowing among
the petals, cross-
pollinating. Here is Christ’s mind
juiced, joined, fleshed, celled.
Here is the clash,
the roil, an invasion, not gentle
as dew; the rose is unfurled
violently until the scent explodes
and detonates in the air
And oh, it trembles—
thousands of seeds ripen in it as
it reels in the wind
~Luci Shaw “Flower head”
Christ … is a thorn in the brain.
Christ is God crying I am here,
and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you,
but here in what appalls, offends, and degrades you,
here in what activates and exacerbates
all that you would call not-God.
To walk through the fog of God
toward the clarity of Christ is difficult
because of how unlovely,
how ungodly that clarity often turns out to be.
~Christian Wiman from Image Journal essay “Varieties of Quiet”
It was gardener/author Alphonse Karr in the mid-19th century who wrote that even though most people grumble about roses having thorns, he was grateful that thorns have roses. After all, there was a time when thorns were not part of our world, when we knew nothing of suffering and death, but pursuing and desiring more than we were already generously given, we received a bit more than we bargained for.
We continue to reel under the thorns our choices produce — indeed every day there is more bloodletting.
So a rose was sent to adorn the thorns and even then we chose thorns to make Him bleed. Yes, a fragrant rose blooms beautiful, bleeding amid the thorns, and will to the endless day.
This year’s Barnstorming Advent theme “… the Beginning shall remind us of the End” is taken from the final lines in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”
1. Maria walks amid the thorn,
Maria walks amid the thorn,
Which seven years no leaf has born.
Jesus and Maria.
2. What ‘neath her heart doth Mary bear?
A little child doth Mary bear,
Beneath her heart He nestles there.
Jesus and Maria.
3. And as the two are passing near,
Lo! roses on the thorns appear,
Lo! roses on the thorns appear.
Jesus and Maria.
A spotless Rose is blowing, sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers’ foreshowing of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winter; and in the dark midnight.
The Rose which I am singing, whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing in Mary, purest Maid;
For, through our God’s great love and might,
The blessed Babe she bare us in a cold, cold winter’s night.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendour the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us, and lightens every load.
O Jesus, by being born out of this vale of tears,
Let Thy help guide us to the hall of joy In your father’s kingdom,
As we praise You eternally; O God, give us that.
When Jesus Christ was yet a child
He had a garden small and wild
Where-in he cherished roses fair
And wove them into garlands there
Now as the summertime drew nigh
There came a troop of children by
And seeing roses on the tree
With shouts they plucked them merrily
“Do you bind roses in your hair?”
They cried in scorn to Jesus there
The boy said humbly “Take I pray
All but the naked thorns away”
Then of the thorns they made a crown
And with rough fingers pressed it down
Till on his forehead fair and young
Red drops of blood like roses sprung
~Plechtcheev, melody by Tchaikovsky
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One thought on “The Beginning Shall Remind Us of the End: The Rose Among the Thorns”
Wiman minces no words when he says that “Christ…is a thorn in the brain….Christ is God
crying ‘I am here…'” (Once again, I recall two of my favorite works: “The Hound of Heaven”
and Revelation 3:6.)
And your comment, Emily, that:;;; a fragrant rose blooms… bleeding amid the thorns, and will
to the endless day.’ This truism reminded me of the ancient Prophets and those martyrs from our own history up to and including today — those who speak out to warn us of where we are headed and the cost that we will eventually pay for turning our backs and our minds away from our Loving God, as we
seek instead our obedience and fealties toward the anti-God legions in our midst.
Thank you for this entire post. It certainly speaks of our current history and the dangers to which
we are headed.
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