Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Dogwood

For most of my childhood, I lived in Missouri, a state that looks very different from where I currently reside.  The towering oaks surrounded me, and I loved hiking beneath their shade.  However, it was the gentle dogwood trees, peeping out from between the stately oaks, that caught my eye each spring.  Their soft, white blossoms were a beautiful contrast to the fresh green in the budding leaves of the other trees.  Missouri landscape is dotted with dogwoods wherever you go.

The dogwood tree, however, grabbed my attention even more when I learned of the Legend of the Dogwood.  While there is no proof this legend has any factual details to it, I can recognize the symbolic aspects related to the Dogwood tree and its blossoms.  Whether the cross was actually created from a Dogwood tree was not the point.  Looking at the snowy blossoms brought to mind my crucified Lord, and thus they became a favorite tree of mine.

Legend relates that at the time of Jesus' Crucifixion, the dogwood tree was similar in size to the oak and the other majestic trees of the forest.  Because of its firmness and strength, it was selected as the timber for the Cross, but to be used for such a cruel task, greatly distressed the tree.  Sensing this, the crucified Jesus, in His gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all, promised the dogwood would never again be used as a gibbet.

Instead the tree would remain slender and bent, not large enough to act as a cross.

+ The dogwood blossoms would be in the form of a cross:  two long and two short petals.
+ In the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints -- brown with rust and stained with red, the color of our Lord's blood.
+ In the center of each flower would be found a crown of thorns.

**All who see the tree with its shape and marks would remember the Crucifixion of Our Lord.

Years ago, with my devotion to Mary and the image of this tree in mind, I composed the poem below.

My Lady

My Lady stands among the blossoms of the dogwood tree,
Oh, how lovely to behold is she!
Her gown, bordered with gold, is woven of the purest blue,
And around her feet, lay delicate roses, sprinkled with the morning dew.

Her eyes are bright; her face is fair,
Her head is bowed as in prayer.
Her lips part in a smile of the gentlest love,
As she listens to the birds' songs in the trees above.

Softly stirring her robe, the quiet breeze,
Whispers of her beauty as it slips through the trees.
One of the flowers glides from its limb,
And gracefully she picks it up, thinking of Him.

She holds the snowy blossom close to her heart,
And with tears in her eyes, my Lady turns to depart.
--Christine McDonald

Blessed Lent!

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