Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Dogwood and the Cross

The Ohio farm where I grew up was a natural wonder in the spring of the year. After the long dreary months of winter, my eyes were hungry for fresh color and growing, blooming things. Daffodils, tulips, and iris, bloomed in the flower beds around the house, and flowering trees were abundant throughout the county. The red bud was a favorite, and of course, the apple, peach, and cherry trees were delightful. I loved to wander through the woods and hillsides to smell the pungent odors of earth warming with the fragrant scents of another Ohio springtime. My favorite blossom was the flower that adorned the dogwood tree.

The hill across from the farmhouse had several of these unusual trees, and I would gather branches to bring into the house and place in tall vases of water. The tree bloomed around Easter every year and the blossom of the little dogwood tree held a legend that made this particular blossom special above all others. The bloom is white or pink, and in the shape of a cross. A brownish stain marks the end of the blossom, symbolizing the nail prints in Jesus’ hands. In the center is a yellowish crown of thorns reminiscent of the one Jesus wore on his brow. My father shared the legend with me when I was a child, and I have never looked at the blossom without thinking of my own father and of Jesus and His love for me. When my father passed away many years later, it was in the spring of the year. I climbed the hill and gathered a great bouquet of dogwood branched to lay on his grave. I think he would have liked that.~

Legend of the Dogwood

An old and beautiful legend has it that, at the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood was comparable in size to the oak tree and other monarchs of the forest. Because of its firmness and strength it was selected as the timber for the cross, but to be put to such a cruel use greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Jesus in his gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all said to it: "Because of your sorrow and pity for My sufferings, never again will the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a gibbet. Henceforth it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will 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 -- and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see this will remember."

The Cross

The cross is a well-known and beloved symbol of the Christian faith and represents the instrument used to crucify Jesus Christ, the sacrificial “Lamb of God” who purchased the free gift of salvation for all who believe. We who have knelt at the foot of this old rugged cross, have felt the agony of His passion and the selfless love poured out for our redemption. We understand in part the undeniable beauty of this crude emblem. How rough and harsh is this symbol, but oh how beautiful and magnificent is the impact and significance of the Christian cross.

©2010 Ruth Ellinger all rights reserved