Rosa Mystica

Mystical Rose

Mary is compared to the mysterious (mystical) rose. The rose was symbol of mystery (antiquity), and for early Christians a metaphor of both martyrdom (Cyprian) and paradise (catacombs of Saint Callistus). The half image of Mary in this illustration emerges from a giant rose bush planted in a French garden. Two potted rose trees flank the central image. All three serve as visual support to the scriptural references of the rose symbolism applied to Mary.

The rose bush with open petals serving as throne of Our Lady bears the following caption: “Open up your petals like roses planted near running water” (Sirach 39:13). The lateral rose trees make reference to the “rosebush in Jericho” (Sirach 24:14) and to the “blossoms on the branches in springtime” (quasi flos rosarum) (Sirach 50:8). The immediate reference of these three rose metaphors is the children of God, Wisdom, and Simon, Son of Jochanan. They are also applied to Mary in order to highlight Mary’s sinlessness and role in the Incarnation. Indeed, she is “rose without thorn” (since Sedulius Caelius, ~ 430) and the shoot (Mary) of the root (Jewish people) from which a “bud shall blossom” (Jesus) (see Isaiah 11:1 – since Tertullian, Ambrose). Mary’s mystery is that of her virginal motherhood. The invitation of the lemma: “Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds” (Wisdom 2:8) is addressed to all. We are called to be sons and daughters of God.


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