Lazarus and Flowers

In the West it is the end of Good Friday as I write, but this year for us Orthodox it issymp white roses the beginning of Lazarus Saturday, when we remember an event that starts out very poignantly, with Jesus’s friends lamenting the death of their brother, and Jesus Himself weeping.

This story of a death and of friends and family sorrowing is timely in my own life right now, and of course I have done some weeping lately – but mostly I wanted to write about the flowers that have come to me, and I may be stretching a bit to connect all these thoughts together.

Flowers have been coming into our house nearly every day for more than two weeks. They are beautiful bouquets and arrangements and plants, and when the first one arrived, before my husband died and on our wedding anniversary, the circumstances made it obvious that God had sent it by the hand of an angel, to convey His love and to assure me that Hebouquet CMc 2 will be my Husband, as it says in Isaiah 54: “For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel….” I cried a good deal over that bouquet, and as the florist delivery man and I became better acquainted day by day, I received every new gift with joy.

We know flowers not just as symbols, but primarily as real and exquisite works of art, lovely in themselves. I think the florist noticed the repeated name on each order and tried to make every creation a little different; we have been enjoying dozens of varieties and species of blooms, ferns, branches of shrubs, succulents in ever-changing combinations, all gorgeous.

Other friends brought their own original and unique arrangements, or sometimes just a contribution to a nosegay. Each was given a place in the house where it could minister to the crowd of family who were coming and going for a fortnight and often sleeping here (One night 15 of us slept under this roof.), but I think I was the symp mix w lupinemost nourished of anyone by all the sweet flower-love. These real and aromatic things helped to keep me aware of God’s presence as much as did the kind messages in cards, and the care packages of fruit and candy.

They also gave me a job to do. While my children took over the more difficult practical matters of phone calls, shopping, cooking and organizing a funeral, I was able to wander about tending my flowers, trimming the stems, changing the water, removing spent ones and recombining the longer-lasting blooms (Carnations win the prize for aging well.). It was and is an easy sort of gardening, and very soothing.

People have given our family flowers and other kindnesses because they love us; that makes them feel our sorrow with us. We don’t really need any more explanation than that, but there is another aspect to our sorrowing. I find what Fr. Alexander Schmemannsymp azalea says about Jesus’s tears to be helpful:

He weeps because He contemplates the miserable state of the world, created by God, and the miserable state of man, the king of creation… “It stinketh,” say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse, and this “it stinketh” can be applied to the whole of creation. God is Life and He called the man into this Divine reality of life and “he stinketh.” At the grave of Lazarus Jesus encounters Death — the power of sin and destruction, of hatred and despair. He meets the enemy of God. And we who follow Him are now introduced into the very heart of this hour of Jesus, the hour, which He so often mentioned. The forthcoming darkness of the Cross, its necessity, its universal meaning, all this is given in the shortest verse of the Gospel — “and Jesus wept.”

symp tulips The power of Resurrection is not a Divine “power in itself,” but the power of love, or rather, love as power. God is Love, and it is love that creates life; it is love that weeps at the grave and it is, therefore, love that restores life… This is the meaning of these Divine tears. They are tears of love and, therefore, in them is the power of life.

Perhaps Mary and Martha didn’t have as many flowers as I do when Lazarus died. They likely did have flower essences in the ointment they would have used to prepare their brother’s body for burial.

And they had the Lord, not just weeping with them for the wrongness of death, but in His love giving the ultimate gift, His own Self. Without the knowledge of that Love and the assurance of a coming Resurrection, what flowers can give wouldn’t be very satisfying. But while my husband walked this earth he and I shared Christ’s life-creating Love, and we still do. Flowers are one more reminder of that reality to my still-weeping heart.

symp w carnation

12 thoughts on “Lazarus and Flowers

  1. My heart goes out to you at this time. I have been on this widowhood journey for 2 years and almost 4 months. It hasn’t been easy, but God is my strength and gives me what I need each and every day.

    Your beautiful post uplifted and encouraged me on this Easter morning. Thank you and God’s continued blessings on you.

    You are not alone and I also believe God has taken my husband’s place and is my husband now. My love for my husband of 43 years still continues to grow, and I look forward to our reunion one day. Until then I desire to daily walk in God’s grace and tender mercies, keeping my focus on Him.

    Love, hugs and prayers for you and your family at this time.


    I came from M.K.’s blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Despite the potential for sad and sympathetic feelings, your post brings peace and strength to us who know you only through words. May those effects–and our uplifted hearts–send a small measure of that gift back to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just reread this post (and I hope to read it again, at least once each year on this Friday–I keep forgetting about tomorrow’s importance, it’s deeper meaning). In addition to your account of the comfort of friends & flowers, I was struck by something in the quotation from Father Schmemann: “The power of Resurrection is not a Divine “power in itself,” but the power of love, or rather, love as power. God is Love, and it is love that creates life; it is love that weeps at the grave and it is, therefore, love that restores life… ”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was just rereading it myself last night, and those very words you quote back at me I am including in a new post for this Lazarus Saturday. We are on the same page, literally 🙂


      2. Yesterday (a Friday) I took blooming tulip plants to a friend whose dear housemate had died the Friday before. She will plant them outside her window when spring comes.

        Rereading your post tonight, I recognized a deeper significance to this often casual, almost automatic gesture (flowers when words fail). The story of Jesus wanting to be with a friend who “stinketh” is such a powerful one, and flowers– or their oily essences, as you mentioned– provide an apt background for, and reminder of, His healing presence.

        Good words.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I hadn’t ever thought of that aspect of the practice of giving flowers, though to me scents are very important! Just today my daughter and her husband sent me flowers for a thank-you gift for me coming to India, and it made me feel their love again as I did when I was with them.


  3. Gretchen, your posts since your husband’s passing are so rich, so comforting, so chock-full of truth. My heart wells up with joy when I hear you say that you and he STILL SHARE Jesus’s life-giving love — how true! How wonderful! How death-conquering! That love is shared over the gulf of the grave is a marvel. Thank you for sharing this, and the beauty of these blooms. I’m glad you were allowed to tend them and find it soothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gretchen, I am catching up on reading blogs. I am so sorry to read of your husband’s death on earth and arrival in heaven. Anguish and joy mingled. Thank you for sharing your heart with us – your posts are full of God’s love and strength.

    Liked by 1 person

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