The Yellow Roses of Lourdes

       This does not seem to be well known, but when Mary appeared at Lourdes in 1858, she had yellow roses on her feet.  In an account to a Fr. Gondrand of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Bernadette said, "I looked up at the grotto.  I saw a lady dressed in white.  She was wearing a white dress with a blue sash and had a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary."  I've seen them depicted as pinkish or red but this is not historically accurate.  Considering their likeness to the chain, it would seem the color would be yellow with a goldish appearance.
        There's a reason for the flowers being there and it strikes me that we should try to understand why.    A logical place to start is to ask what the meaning of a rose would be and why two of them were placed on her feet.  
       In Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, a book by Rev. George Ferguson, it says "Traditionally, among the ancient Romans, the rose was the symbol of victory, pride, and triumphant love."  He said the feet are a symbol of "humility and willing servitude," since they come in contact with the dust of the earth.   
      Yellow actually has opposite meanings, some negative and some positive, depending on the subject.  Yellow sometimes suggests treason or degradation among other things.   Golden yellow, however, stands for the sun and for divinity.  Renaissance paintings have a golden glow symbolizing the sacred.   St. Peter's mantle was yellow symbolizing "revealed truth."
      But what about the number of roses?  The number two, the Rev. Ferguson says, suggests the dual nature of Christ.
      Now gather these elements together and put forward possible reasons for the placement of the flowers there.  Mary is humble and served the will of God, so that fits her feet.  Her Son is divine, the golden yellow would reflect that, and of course He has two natures.  
     The path Mary trod and treads, is the path we should tread.   She not only walked with Christ but she wants to lead us to Him.  She also carried Jesus into the world, and His life and death resulted in a victory over sin and death: a triumph of His love for us. 
      In a sermon of St. Bernard's, we are told that Nazareth means "a flower."  And Nazareth is where Mary is from.  It echoes her trip to her cousin Elizabeth as she carried "...the Way, the Truth and the Life." 
      Hers is a path in the Light of Christ.                                         

                                                                                               John Riedell

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