Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bring Flowers of the Fairest

One of the advantages of being a permanent deacon is being married!  My wife, Teresa is a Spiritual Director, a Master Gardener, mother of four and whose life is a beautiful balance of action and contemplation.  Please enjoy the following piece that she wrote for my blog…
As a young girl growing up in a small Pennsylvania town and sharing a room with my many sisters , every May we made elaborate altars to the Blessed Mother when the lilacs bloomed and we sang the hymn we were taught in our catholic grade school (Saint Mary's, of course) “Bring Flowers of the Fairest.”

The nostalgia and quaintness of this activity may mask its deeper importance for us as Catholics today as we are awash with scandal and the ennui that may perhaps come after a long time in any spiritual practice. We can become more jaded and as a result deny ourselves some rituals that are both sustaining and rich.

Catholicism taught me the wisdom of sacramental, bodily celebration of our inner movements.  This simple ritual consecrates beauty and femininity and gives us a portal right now to enter even more deeply into the mystery of Easter.  We can immerse ourselves in the death and resurrection that are so evident to any gardener or nature lover at this time of the year when “as long as the bowers are radiant with flowers, as long as the azure shall keep its bright hue.” (An azure, by the way, is a type of butterfly!!)

Perhaps this is the week to resurrect this sacred ritual and make a small altar to honor Mary and her beautiful and bountiful femininity.  Below is the list of symbols from my altar and click here to listen to this lovely hymn (lyrics below).

Flowers : consecration, beauty
Shells: the spiraling wisdom of the feminine
Candles: passion, enlightenment
Icon of Mary

Bring flowers of the rarest
Bring blossoms the fairest,
From garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!

Refrain: O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

Our voices ascending, in harmony blending,
Oh! thus may our hearts turn, dear Mother, to thee;
Oh! thus shall we prove thee how truly we love thee,
How dark without Mary, life's journey would be.

O Virgin most tender, our homage we render,
Thy love and protection, sweet Mother, to win;
In danger defend us, in sorrow befriend us,
As pure as the lilies we lay at your feet.

Their lady they name thee, their mistress proclaim thee,
Ah, grant that thy children on earth be as true
as long as the bowers are radiant with flowers,
as long as the azure shall keep its bright hue.

Sing gaily in chorus; the bright angels o'er us
re-echo the strains we begin upon earth;
their harps are repeating the notes of our greeting,
for Mary herself is the cause of our mirth


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Jim, and especially Theresa. It brings back very fond memories of Sacred Heart School in the Bronx. "Bring flowers of the fairest" was a big part of May. I remember bringing lilacs from my grandmother's yard to place on our classroom altar. These beautiful traditions are never forgotten. Thanks again.

Ginny@RandomActsofMomness said...

I love that you posted this! I have such fond memories of the May Crownings at my elementary school in the 80s. "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" was always one of my favorites. It's such a beautiful tradition for so many reasons ... a celebration of springtime, of motherhood, of creation, of a very special woman who continues to inspire us.

Fran said...

Oh my - how beautiful! Please tell Teresa that her post touched my heart deeply.

Meredith Gould said...

Such a lovely post. Once upon a time, it was not unusual to find a "Mary Garden" at someone's home. Not ours! I was raised Jewish, although we did keep flowers in what my Jewish mother referred to as "the Madonna niche" in our living room wall. Go figure.