The Rose: A Marian Symbol

In the Greco-Roman culture, the rose represented beauty, love and the season of spring. It also spoke of the fleetness of time, and therefore implied death and the next world.

In Latin Christian iconography, the first use of the rose appears in the scenes representing the next world. Also used were the lily and other flowers. These flowers also became symbols of virtues and of categories of the elect. The red rose represented the martyrs, and the lily, for the virgins. The rose as the queen of flowers, was evidently a privileged symbol for Mary. She is called a rose among the thorns. The rose is also a symbol of Christ who is called the Rose of Sharon.
Wonderful examples of this symbolism are found in the gothic cathedrals and their rose windows. These circular stained glass windows enhance the three entrances of these churches. These immense roses symbolize the world of salvation offered and revealed by God to our lost human race through the old and New Testaments. Christ, at the center of these rose windows, appears usually as judge or in the mystery of his Incarnation. In the latter example we see Mary presenting the Child Jesus.
During the Middle Ages the theme of the rose garden developed from the symbolism of the rose in the literature of courtly love.

In the literature’s of these times the rose was the symbol of the beloved lady. Later the influence of the Song of Songs led to the rose symbolizing the mystical union between Christ and his Church or between God and each member of his people. Mary was honored as the model of our union with God. The rose then became a symbol of the union between Christ and Mary thus titled the Mystical Rose in many writings. Marian symbolism of the rose was later popularized by the devotion of the rosary. The structured prayer form of 150 Hail Mary’s was termed a “rosary.” Here, with the religious, the symbolism of the rosary stands as an anthology of spirituality.

Our Lady of the rosary is Our Lady of the roses. The roses are the symbols of greeting offered to the Mother of God. The religious greet her with spiritual flowers.

Another use of the rose as a spiritual symbol is symbolic. The rose became a moral emblem to illustrate various old sayings or rules of conduct. For example: “Life is a rose. Its beauty fades rapidly.” “As the rose blossoms under the sun, I shall blossom under the eyes of God.” “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”

The rose also symbolizes the trials and tribulations of life. There will be pain amongst the beauty, blooming even in the deserts of life and thorns within the trusting of the Vine. The rose, whether depicted through the Virgin Mary or The Christ, is a symbol of love, passion and perseverance throughout all the ages and the ages to come.

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