Significance of the Lily

It is a tough age for people who want to thrive. The currents of our global village toss us against the rocky shore of faith.  Reason often triumphs over intuition. And, because of the growing advances in technology, we often feel fragmented.  Peace and radiance suffer at the hand of progress.  And it often seems that our destinies will rise or fall on our strength and abilities. Dogs eat dogs, after all.  We have no time for radiance.

Wendell Berry writes so pointedly about the strange search for rest and faith and peace in his poem, “The Lilies:”

Hunting them, a man must sweat, bear the whine of a mosquito in his ear, grow thirsty, tired, despair perhaps of ever finding them, walk a long way.  He must give himself over to patience, for they live beyond will. He must be led along the hill as by a prayer.  If he finds them anywhere, he will find a few, paired on their stalks, at ease in the air as souls in bliss.  I found them here at first without hunting, by grace, as all beauties are first found.  I have hunted and not found them here. Found, unfound, they breathe their light into the mind, year after year.

The lily enjoys a rich place in art and Western literature.  St. John of the Cross utilizes the lily to describe abandonment in the arms of Christ, for example.  Lost in his embrace, we leave our “cares forgotten among the lilies.”  The poet of the Song of Songs uses the image of the lily to describe the radiance of the beloved.  C.S. Lewis uses the image of the lily to describe the serenity and uniqueness of coming close to God (watch for it at the end of the Dawn Treader).

Thus, to thrive among the lilies is no small task.  It means staying true to the beauty that God has placed within us.  It means abandoning ourselves to God in the best and worst of times, resisting the inclination to feel abandoned by God.  It means loosing your cares as Jesus points us to the fields where, as As Quaker Thomas Kelly put it: “God plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chain of attachment.  And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love.”

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