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Sunday of the Cross and Floriography

Filed in: events, floriography

This week’s “Floriography Friday” post is going to be a bit different. Last week I was honored to provide flowers for an event truly unlike any in which I’ve participated before. This post will be a bit religious in nature due to the piece itself that I created. If I’ve gotten any details wrong, I apologize and eagerly seek gentle correction.

For Orthodox Christians across the globe, it was The Sunday of the Cross. From The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s website: “On the Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Services include a special veneration of the Cross, which prepares the faithful for the commemoration of the Crucifixion during Holy Week.”

As anyone who has followed me for a while knows, I utilize the language of flowers in every design I create. Floriography has existed in some fashion since the earliest days of humanity. Ancient Norse, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and other cultures all had meanings for different plants and flora. The Victorians standardized the language. Due to this, many flowers became officially associated with Christianity in one way or another. (Though, as previously stated, many had been already associated since Biblical times).

Photo by Matushka Senia

Meanings of the Chosen Flowers

Knowing this, when asked to create the floral for this special Sunday, I knew I wanted to be very intentional about the flowers I used and what they meant.

15 Red Roses: Red to symbolize the true love of Christ to those for whom he perished – as well as His blood. 15 roses were used in Victorian times to ask forgiveness. Christians believe in asking forgiveness of their sins, and it is directly tied to the cross which they venerate this day.
12 White and Red Variegated Roses: Variegated roses were meant to speak “Warmth of heart”. White symbolizes purity, red symbolizing again that love and the blood spilled. 12 roses were traditionally used as a sign of devotion. (That’s why lovers often gift a dozen roses on special occasion.)
27 Roses Altogether: When added together, the sum of the 27 roses has additional meaning. In the Victorian Era, 27 roses were a traditional gift from one spouse to the other. As the Orthodox Church views itself as The Bride of Christ, this seemed appropriate.
Gerbera Daisies: Innocence, purity, and strength.
Hyacinth: I used purple hyacinth for a couple of reasons. Traditionally, a lot of purple is used during the Lenten season for many reasons. One major reason being purple was traditionally associated with royalty because it was the most expensive dye. For Christians, Christ is the King of Kings. Therefore, a lot of purple shows up at Lent. Purple hyacinth in particular communicates: “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” as well as sadness and sorrow. I used a hint of pink hyacinth as well – mostly because it played well with the colors, but it also signifies joy. This might seem in direct opposition to the sorrow from the purple, but remember that while there is sorrow for Christians in the death of Jesus, there is also joy in the resurrection.
Alstroemeria: These fragrantless flowers are often overlooked and written off as a “grocery store variety”. But they signify a “powerful bond” according to the ancient meaning. Have you ever taken time to really study the unique petal formation? They’re actually quite beautiful – and meaningful!
Carnations: Another flower that is often dismissed due to its commonality, these fluffy beauties are steeped in meaning. According to an old Christian legend, carnations originally appeared at the Crucifixion where tears fell from the eyes of the Virgin Mary. For this reason, they’re often associated with a mother’s love and given as a gift on Mother’s Day. I used a variety of colors of carnation and while each technically does have a meaning (and most of them work really well for this), I was focusing more on the general meaning of the carnation.
Tulips: Resurrection, eternal love, and perfection. These were placed neatly in the arrangement but not as visibly as some other blooms. I wanted the underlying theme to come through, but I didn’t want them to take over.
Chrysanthemum: While there are MANY meanings to this gorgeous bloom, I focused on two in particular. Often used as a funeral flower (particularly in Asian countries), chrysanthemums can signify death – but the second meaning I chose to focus on is optimism (for the coming day of the resurrection).
Statice: Used to symbolize grace and remembrance. Again, in the color purple.
Solidago: Encouragement, pushing forward, and growth. This is mostly in remembrance of early Christians who were pushing forward in the faith during intense times of persecution.
Ruscus: Thoughtfulness. The minds of the parishioners are turned toward the cross at this time, and I wanted to speak to them and their thoughtfulness.
Eucalyptus: Banishment of evil – which, according to the Christian faith, Christ’s sacrifice accomplished.
Safari Sunset Protea: Simple beauty (of the ministry of Christ).

Speaking the Language

Floriography can play a vital role in our every day lives if we let it. This language is visual, full, and deep, and it was such an honor to share it with our local parish.

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