Flowering the cross

March 28, 2018


Spoiler Alert - The tomb was empty

Happy Easter from the Easter Beagle. This is the story from this week's Mobile Press Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.

When I was married and joined a new church that observed the old custom of flowering the cross, I was thrilled. On Palm Sunday, the pastor reminded us to bring a flower from home the next week and explained this was a tradition recorded in artwork as far back as the 6th century.

Sure enough, the following Sunday, we put on our Easter best and carried a flower to church, where everyone gathered outside the doors of the sanctuary to make something that was originally old and rugged into a thing of stunning beauty.

The flower cross was soon heavy with fragrant lilies, gladiolas, roses and even a few colorful weeds from tiny children’s hands, and was changed before our eyes into Holy art. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite lines from a hymn that taunts, “where oh death is now thy sting?”

Watching as each person or family carefully approached the cross to find a spot to insert their flower, was close to observing a sacred ritual. With hope in their eyes, and often tears — maybe from joy, or perhaps from the pain of recent hurts, each flower brought yet another level of celebration. An older lady in the congregation was unsteady in her approach to the cross, but a teenager stepped forward and held her arm. A woman who was battling addictions placed her hand on the rough surface before inserting her flower, silently praying for the old darkness of her life to blossom into something new. A young father who had battled cancer but emerged victorious with good health and the surprise birth of a beautiful baby posed with his wife and tiny son in front of the cross for a photo that captured the look of hope and faith in their new future.

One by one, the people came and added flower after flower, until at last, there was room for no more. The air was perfumed, and the colors were vivid. Our symbol of ugly death being transformed into the beautiful resurrection was complete, and it was time for worship and celebration to begin.

An ancient legend says that tears from Jesus’ mother Mary rolled down her cheeks and fell at the foot of his cross, and from there, beautiful flowers grew. We don’t know if this is true, but it proves that for centuries, we have longed for a sign of freshness and new beginnings. Sadness to joy, sickness to health, war to peace, and death to life. Flowering the cross is a tangible reminder of how we can apply the lessons of Easter to our modern-day lives. We can embrace the amazing pity, grace unknown and love beyond degree.

Not all churches observe the tradition of flowering the cross, and there are many people who have fallen away from church attendance. But maybe finding our own way to turn something ugly into a source of beauty can be the way we personally commemorate Easter. Helping someone in need and bringing hope to their life could be our goal, or perhaps we need to reinvigorate a rough, old relationship with fresh forgiveness. Maybe it’s our hearts that need renewal. Full of anger, guilt or shame, the greatness of the resurrection can heal it all. Flowering the cross is an outward celebration of the Easter miracle but flowering our hearts may be the ultimate form of beautiful Easter worship.

  • You have shared thoughtful information of role of flowers in the Church.
    Thanks for sharing the amazing post.

  • I have never seen a flowered cross so thanks for sharing this beautiful and meaningful custom with us. Also, I love your t-shirt and I loved that you respectfully answered the comment from your reader who felt differently. We can and will disagree with others but it is in how we handle those disagreements that we show kindness and respect.

    • Thanks Mo. I’ve had fun with the shirt. Everyone (except one) got the humor and thought. I’ll save it again for next Easter!

  • Gail P Stein says:

    We are doing this tradition again at our church Sunday. Come by add a flower & a short prayer. Our doors are open at 11:00 a.m. for our service of love & praise at First United Methodist Church Bay Minette, AL. We will be looking for you tomorrow.

    • Oh, how nice! It should be great weather for you, and I know it will be beautiful.

  • Leslie Anne, Such a beautiful and touching post. The flowered cross is a beautiful tradition for church members. Love your tee and what a wonderful way to express your feelings and beliefs during Holy Week. Beautiful pics of you and your tots. Happy Easter Leslie Ann………

    • Thanks Emily. I’m sure you are in full Easter decorating mode! Have a great weekend!

  • My childhood church, St. Andrews Anglican in Mt. Pleasant, SC, still does the flowering of the cross. The children put all the flowers on it. It brought tears to my eyes last year to see my childhood friends (who are now grandparents) helping the children. I love your shirt…if God doesn’t have a sense of humor, we are all in more trouble we thought.

    • Thanks Roxanne. I’m so happy you’ve seen the full-circle of the tradition. What a beautiful experience!

  • I love this tradition and your story was indeed powerful.
    Your t-shirt is cute and I think a powerful message too. Great conversation starter to tell people of the wondrous news that makes Christianity different from all other religions.

  • I have only seen photos of a flowered cross, but it is a beautiful tradition! What a lovely post, Leslie Anne!

    • Thanks Pam. They are even more spectacular than you could imagine in person!

  • Ellen Shook says:

    I think your pearls set off your shirt beautifully, as do Lois Lane’s bunny ears. I don’t think I have ever actually seen a flowered cross, although I have certainly attended many Easter services. I do think it is a lovely idea, and your sentiment is beautifully expressed.

    • Thanks Miss Ellen! I’m sure you are the star of the Easter parade when you go!

  • I’m sorry, but your T-shirt is offensive.

    • Hmm. I’m going to go ahead and post your comment, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why you would think that. But first of all, please accept my apology because I would never want to offend you. I think God has a great sense of humor and to know the final outcome of the cross is the happiest, most joyful ending to any story ever told! To be reminded of our promise of eternal life is a reason for happy-smile inducing goodness. And by the way, even my Jewish friends thought it was funny and thought-provoking. I think God would want us to celebrate the empty tomb with jumping up and down hand clapping giggles. But then again, maybe it’s not the message that offends you. Maybe it’s because I’m a happy Christian. And in that case, too bad.
      And I have to add this someone just sent me from Joel Osteen:

      “He who sits [enthroned] in the heavens laughs…”
      (Psalm 2:4, AMP)

      He Laughs in the Heavens
      Can you get a picture of God laughing in the heavens? Right now, God is on the throne. He’s not mad. He’s not worried about the economy. He’s not upset with you and me. What’s He doing? God is full of joy and laughing on the throne. It goes on to tell us in Psalm 37 that He’s laughing because “He can see the destruction of the enemy coming.” In other words, the reason God laughs is because He knows the end of the story. He knows the final outcome.

  • Beautiful custom – Powerful Message
    Thank you for writing it.

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