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John Stokes and Mary's Gardens

Earthly and Heavenly Floral Symbols

Flower Symbols of Mary on Earth and in Heaven

– John S. Stokes Jr.

Those consecrated to Jesus through Mary seek to heighten prayerful recourse to Mary's motherly nurturing, advocacy and mediation for sanctification and the coming of God's Kingdom by inspiring fuller faith in her, loving devotion and prayer to her through reflection on the Gospel story and the Mysteries of the Rosary, imitation of her virtues as the "Ladder to Heaven" of spiritual perfection, illuminative meditation on and emulation of her union with the Persons of the Trinity; and consecration, through and with her, of all actions and mortifications to God.

The restoration of the Flowers of Our Lady and Mary Gardens of medieval popular rural traditions to present day gardening is a beautiful and illuminative means for heightening prayerful devotion and recourse to Mary in our times.

The very planting and tending of Mary's Flowers around her statue in a garden dedicated to her provides an opportunity for individual expression of devotion to Mary, and for sharing this with others.

As we become familiar with the symbolism and legends of Mary's Flowers, they serve to quicken our reflection and meditation on her life and mysteries, and to heighten our love for her. The many flower symbols of the Annunciation heighten our love of Mary's pure, humble response to God's call to be the Mother of the Savior; those of the Nativity, her tender loving nurturing of the Infant Jesus; and those of her motherly work for Jesus in their Nazareth home - of her sewing and cooking, of her garments and household articles - for her loving care and teaching as he grew in strength, grace and wisdom. And through our flower-inspired loving thoughts of Mary, we come in time to have a sense of her presence with us, and thus enter into affective communion and mental conversation with her as we garden.

White Lily "Annunciation Lily" – symbol of Mary's Immaculate Purity.

Violet – symbol of Mary's humility "regarded by the Lord".

Monkshood "Our Lady's Slipper" – symbol of Mary's graceful Visitation trip to visit Elizabeth in the hill country: "All her steps were most beauteous."

Thistle-Down – another Visitation symbol, from its graceful movement in air currents.

Rose – symbol of the Blessed Virgin of prophecy, "the Rose wherein the Divine Word was made incarnate.

Daisy – "Mary's Flower of God" (Jesus)

Periwinkle – "Virgin Flower", the blue color recalling her fullness of grace.

Columbine – symbol of the dove of the Holy Spirit, Mary's overshadowing, indwelling, divine Spouse.

Pansy – "Trinity Flower", symbol of the Trinity, first revealed to Mary.

Strawberry – "Fruitful Virgin", in flower and fruit at the same time.

Everlasting – symbol of Mary's eternal loving mediation in heaven.

(Image text: ANNUNCIATION WITH FLOWER SYMBOLS, XVI Century French Book of Hours, Lily.....Rose.....Pansy.....Periwinkle.....Everlasting.....Thistle-Down.....Columbine)

As we reflect on the flower symbols of Jesus' Passion, our sense of communion with Mary brings us also to share in her motherly sorrows at the foot of the Cross; and to embrace her in our hearts as Jesus gives her to us as our own spiritual Mother. Again through her flower symbols we are present with her in the Upper Room as she prayed for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost.

Then, as through her flower symbols we reflect on Mary's Assumption body and soul into Heaven, and on her heavenly Queenship, our flower meditations become illuminative. As the beauty and purity of her flower symbols have quickened our love for Mary's purity and love when she was on earth, so does their translucence open our souls to illuminative contemplation of her presence in heaven, where we learn to love her in her union with the three Divine Persons of the Trinity and in her sharing in their heavenly action of love for earth.

Turning from the Gospels to Rev 12:19-22 we find the assurance of divine revelation that through Mary's heavenly sharing in and mediation of the divine power over the machinations of evil, the culminating Peaceable Kingdom will be established on earth, with final transformation into the eternal New Heaven and New Earth, in accordance with God's will for Creation. In this we turn not to the discursive details of the battle with and triumph over evil (as do so many apocalyptic and end of times cults of our day), but to Mary's glorious heavenly presence and to her divinely prerogatived queenly, motherly, nurturing advocacy for her children on earth, and her mediation of divine grace, light, wisdom and power for Salvation and Kingdom.

As the light of our illuminative flower meditations draws us to the immaculate heavenly presence of Mary, it draws us higher, mystically, to the very Word of God, "the Light of the World, through whom (she and) all things were made", and thence to the interior of the uncreated Heaven of the Trinity - from which Mary herself, now heavenly assumed, comes forth, body and soul, with her Spouse, the processing, spirating Holy Spirit, as the "Woman clothed with the Sun...with child" of Revelations - "The Queen in gilded clothing" (Psalm 44); "Fair as the moon, bright as the sun and terrible as an army set in battle array" (Canticles) - giving birth to the Divine Word Incarnate in all Eternity.

In the Mary Garden we are quickened to reflection on Mary's glorious heavenly coming forth by the symbolism of the marigold - Mary's Gold - applied to many golden flowers in different countries and localities. There are legends that on the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, marigolds were found in Mary's purse by robbers in place of gold coins; but the primary marigold symbolism (as with the ray-like "marigold windows" of cathedrals) is of Mary's radiantly golden heavenly glory. As we enter the Mary Garden the Mary Golds immediately turn our thoughts to heavenly Mary.

The entire Mary Garden of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Portage, Michigan is dedicated to Mary, The Woman of the Apocalypse, through its planting around an original focal sculpture of her as she came forth clothed with the sun, with child - with flowers rising up at her sides, recalling that "the earth helped" protect her from the dragon (Revelations 12:16).

After its dogmatic definition at the Council of Ephesus in 431, Mary's Divine Maternity, her Motherhood of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, was represented in art by images of the Virgin and Child. In medieval art the heavenly Virgin Mother, now Queen, and Child were represented by frontal wooden statues - reliquary Madonnas - and cathedral tympannum reliefs, of the Madonna Enthroned, with the Divine Child enthroned on her knees. These figures were seen to be symbolized by "Lady-Lords" - spathe and spadix flowers similar to Jack-in-the Pulpit, and, of common cultivation today as pot flowers, Peace Lilies - which are thus symbols of the heavenly Mother and Child.

With our meditative focus on heavenly Mary as she comes forth from the interior of the Trinity with the Holy Spirit, our spiritual yearning is now unitively to join with and become the instruments of the processing Holy Spirit and mediating Mary in the renewal of the redeemed earth and the building of God's earthly Kingdom. In this our meditations and prayers are directed to Mary as our heavenly Mother, Advocate, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Queen - to which we are quickened by a new view of her flower symbols.

At first we perceive Mary's heavenly prerogatives according to their Gospel and earthly "previews" and through the flower symbols of these. Thus, Mary in receiving, in her adventive love, the grace of giving birth to the Savior in her heart prior to conceiving him in her womb, mediated the grace of this love of the Savior to the hearts of those gathering to adore him at the Nativity and Epiphany, a preview of her mediation of the grace of conversion to hearts throughout history. Thus the Star of Bethlehem, leading the Astrologer-Kings to Bethlehem, has been called as "Mary's Star".

The turning of water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana was an earthly preview of Mary's heavenly Intercession and advocacy as our Spiritual Mother. Similarly the piercing of her soul with a sword of sorrow "that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed", through which she co-redemptively mediated to the Apostle John and the Holy Women at the foot of the Cross the graces of joining in the sufferings of Jesus, as others fled, previews her heavenly co-redemptive mediation to all of the graces of joining our diminishments, sorrows and sufferings with those of Jesus - already taken by him upon himself with those of all the world: on Calvary, in the continuations of his sacrifice in all the masses of the world, and on the heavenly Altar of the Lamb.

Likewise, flower symbols, such as the Holy Spirit philodendron, of the descending Holy Spirit mediated by Mary to the Apostles - the beginning Church - at Pentecost now symbolize as well her continuing mediation of the descent of the Holy Spirit on us today, as we work and pray to build God's Kingdom.

Flowers symbolizing Mary's features, gestures and garments as Mother on earth similarly symbolize her heavenly loving spiritual motherly care for us, such as "Mary's Hand" of pity and the merciful "Eyes of Mary". "Our Lady's Mantle", seen to be a symbol of Mary's sheltering of the child Jesus from the cold in Nazareth or during the Flight into Egypt, is now seen as a symbol also of her mantle of protecting angels extending from heaven to earth - as in the renowned Spanish painting of Mary's heavenly mantle protectively encompassing Christopher Columbus' three ships as they set sail for the New World. One uniquely heavenly symbol is that of the downwardly inclined flowers of the daffodil, "Mary looking down to us from heaven." Other uniquely heavenly symbols are those such as corn flower, "Mary's Crown", and the bleeding heart, begonia (buds) and caladium (leaves), all symbolizing the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Mary's divinely bestowed privileges, such as those of her dogmatically defined Perpetual Virginity and Immaculate Conception, intitially considered in their earthly context, are equally celebrated of the heavenly Mary. Mary in appearing to Juan Diego at Guadalupe said, "I am the Ever Virgin Mary", and to Bernadette at Lourdes, "I am the Immaculate Conception" - bringing to mind Jesus' statement, "Before Abraham was, I AM." The strawberry, continuing in flower while in fruit, is thus a symbol of Mary's Perpetual Virginity both on earth and in heaven, and the Madonna Lily, a symbol of Mary's temporal and eternal Immaculate Conception.

Emil Mal, in The Virgin in Art, describes the representation in art of another luminous heavenly symbol of Mary, as the Immaculate Conception prior to the Annunciation, surrounded by images from Scripture applied to her by the Church Fathers:

"Art exalted (Mary) above all creatures, and conceived
her as an eternal thought of God. The men of the Middle
Ages...conceived of her as a sublime idea, in which the
soul and the heart may forever discover new wonders. . .
(She) stood forth perfect and spotless in the celestial
essence of womanhood, worthy of infinite love. . . .

"In the early years of the sixteenth century there appeared
in France a touchingly poetic figure of the Virgin as a girl
almost a child in the attitude that Michelangelo gave to Eve
at the moment of her appearance upon earth, hands clasped in
adoration. The young Virgin was suspended between heaven
and earth, was hung like a thought still unexpressed, as an
idea yet only within the mind of God. Above her God
pronounces the words of the Canticle of Canticles: 'Thou art
all beautiful, my love, and there is no spot of sin within
thee.' And to adorn still further the beauty and candor of
the spouse that God has chosen, the artist visualizes the
suavest metaphors of the Bible: the enclosed garden, the
tower of David, the fountain, the lilies of the valley, the
star, the rose, the mirror without stain. Everything most
admired by man becomes a recollection of the Virgin's beauty.
. . . "

(Image text: THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – XVI CENTURY FRENCH BOOK OF HOURS, "Thou art all fair, my love, and there is no spot in thee." Surrounding the Blessed Virgin – portrayed as the Immaculate Conception, as a young maiden prior to the incarnation – are emblems and the biblical phrases, in medieval Latin, which they depict: "Bright as the sun … fair as the moon … gate of heaven … star of the sea … lily among thorns … exalted cedar … rose plant … tower of David … fair olive tree … well of living waters … blossoming rod of Jesse … spotless mirror fountain of gardens … garden enclosed … and, city of God.) 

Mary, Key to God's Kingdom

As we enter the third millennium of Christianity, it behooves us to understand that devotion and prayerful recourse to Mary are not some sort of pious preference, but are essential to the coming of God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, for which we pray daily, as God's willed culmination of the world - created by him in love to show forth and share with us his divine goodness and action eternally.

In this we pray to God, our Heavenly Father with and through his only begotten Son Incarnate, our Divine Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - who has redeemed the fallen world through his sacrifice on the Cross, and has sent the Holy Spirit of love for our sanctification, inspiration and guidance in its renewal and culmination.

Through Jesus' teaching that "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you", we understand the coming of his Kingdom to be both the showing forth of the divine goodness and action in the external earthly Peaceable Kingdom of truth, justice, love and freedom; and also our human sharing and participation in this divine goodness and action interiorly - to which end we are created in the divine image and likeness, male and female, with intellect, will, heart, senses and soul.

In examining Scripture and History we find that the fullest human sharing of God's divine goodness and action has been and continues to be in and through the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. (The human nature of Jesus, "true God and true man", does not "share" in his divine nature - sharing being between persons - but is hypostatically united with it in his one divine person.) For this, Mary, in her humble fidelity to the graces of her privileged Immaculate Conception, was filled with God ("Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you"); and, through her full free assent to the divine call ("Be it done to me according to your word."), entered into intimate personal conceiving union with overshadowing and indwelling God the Holy Spirit, as Mother of the Divine Word Incarnate.

Through the union of the three divine persons of the one God, Mary in her union with the Holy Spirit entered as well into union with her Divine Son and Lord, Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, in a relationship of "Bridal Motherhood" (Sheeban), or of "intimate union and close cooperation" (Vatican II), in his redeeming work - wherein she was privileged and called, in the fullness of personal human sharing, to share in his divine action, as co-redemptrix, co-advocate and co-mediatrix for the human race.

To be specially noted regarding the Kingdom of Heaven within Mary, the "City of God", is her co-redemptive sharing and union, through all her sufferings and sorrows, in Christ's immolative redeeming sacrifice - inspiring our own interior immolative union with Christ in emulation of hers ("And a sword shall pierce your soul, that the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed") - the truth of Christ's sacrifice being shown forth and shared externally in Crucifixes, Masses and in the reserved Eucharists in the tabernacles of all the Catholic cathedrals and churches of the world; and in heaven on the Altar of the Lamb.

Mary's continuing union with Jesus after his Ascension into Heaven - in her mediation of His sending of the Holy Spirit in descent upon the Apostles in the Upper Room of Pentecost - signified that her mediation with Him to the faithful on earth would continue after her own Assumption, body and soul, into Heaven. As a German couplet proclaims (relative to the flower, mullein, Verbascum thapsus, "Heavenly Fire", or "Our Lady's Candle"):

"The Virgin Mary flies all over the land,
With Heaven's Fire in her hand."

Mary was brought into union likewise with God Father: as co-parent of the Divine Word Incarnate; as Queen of Angels cooperating in His providential governance of the world towards Kingdom, ("My soul magnifies the Lord", etc.); and, generally, in the words of Jesus: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it," and "Who does the will of the Heavenly Father is my Mother...." In her union with the Father Mary participated with him also in the very creation of the world - better perceived by us as in "retro-active Eternity," after her Assumption into Heaven - as recognized by the Church Fathers and in the Liturgy, in the application to her of the passage from Proverbs 8:22-32,

"The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways,

. . . .

I was the first, before the earth,

. . . .

When he established the heavens I was there,

. . . .

Then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
Playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of the earth;
and I found delight in the sons of men."

God, to achieve in immaculately assenting Mary, in accordance with the purpose of Creation, the fullness of human sharing of the divine goodness and action to the utmost of human potential, has, further, endowed her with the prerogative of universality of mediation of all divine creating, redeeming, sanctifying and kingdom-culminating grace, light, wisdom and power to the world - such that all our petitions for these to God are augmented, enhanced and embellished by her as our Advocate in their presentation to him, followed by their distribution from God to us through her as our loving Mediatrix. And in our emulation of Mary we come to understand that through her our prayers are participations in her advocacy and mediation, and our mortifications in her co-redemption.

Corroborative of this, from the Divine Office for the feast of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, are the:

Introit -

"Christ, the Redeemer, who has willed that we receive all
graces through Mary, Come let us adore,"

Readings -

"In me is all grace of the way", and

Prayer to Mary -

"We beseech this through your Divine Son, Jesus Christ
who has been pleased to appoint you, his Mother, to be
our Mother also and our mediatrix with him."

Thus, in praying to the Father for the coming of his Kingdom we are to pray to him through both Mary and Jesus - through the union of Mary's Immaculate, Sorrowful, Glorified Heart with the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mary herself has requested this in her appearance at Fatima:

"God desires to establish in the world the devotion to my
Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace
it, and these souls will be loved by God, like flowers placed
by me to adorn His throne. My Immaculate Heart will be your
refuge and the way that will lead you to God."

"Tell everybody that God gives graces through the Immaculate
Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that
the Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the
Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to plead for peace from
the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Lord has confided the
peace of the world to Her."

In response to this, Pope Pius XII proclaimed a Solemn Act of Consecration to be made by the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

"Most Holy Virgin Mary, tender Mother of men, to fulfill the
desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the request of the
Vicar of Your Son on earth, we consecrate ourselves and our
families to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, O Queen of
the Most Holy Rosary, and we recommend to You, all the people
of our country and all the world. . . . Amen."

In this we are to pray through Mary and Jesus to the Holy Spirit for the spiritual inspiration, discernment and elections that all our actions for Kingdom may daily be in accordance with God's will - mindful of Mary's venerated titles of Mother of Good Counsel, Mother of Perpetual Help, and Mother of Consolation.

As the world enters into the third Christian Millennium, the hope is that greater recourse to Mary's prerogatived divine Mediation will provide the fullness of light and social leaven for the world whereby the adventive interior love and sharing of God's goodness and action in human hearts will become sufficiently developed and widespread to enable the many political, idealistic, religious and utopian movements and organizations seeking the worldly Peaceable Kingdom to achieve the graced reconciliations, reparations and cooperations of the "Peace Process" needed to establish the truth, justice, love and freedom of this Kingdom in the world - culminating in God's will for Creation, that, with the general resurrection, all may be transformed into the New Heaven and New Earth showing forth and sharing God's goodness and actions with us eternally.

The proclamation of the dogmas of Mary's Divine Maternity, her Perpetual Virginity, her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption body and soul into Heaven signify the Church's developing discernment from the Deposit of Faith of Mary's key role in the coming of God's Kingdom; and it is anticipated this will be matured with the ripening in the Mind of the Church of the envisaged "final dogma" of Mary, Advocate, Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix - the proclamation of which will provide fuller impetus to the world's prayerful recourse to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through Mary's Immaculate Heart for the graces necessary for the culminative coming of God's Kingdom.

Copyright Mary's Gardens 1999

The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in early 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.


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