Lilies of the Field

Articles, Photo Essay 2 Comments

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus mentioned "lilies of the field." Tulips, poppies, daisies and other wildflowers have been suggested as candidates for "lilies of the field." In this photo essay we discover the subtleties of his message about these beautiful, short lifespan flowers.

Did tall white lilies once grow in the fields and terraces of central Judea or near the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee? They don’t today, and that is why many believe that the “lilies of the field” in Matthew 6:28 and Luke 12:27 does not refer to the beautiful and now rare Madonna Lily, Lilium candidum.

Madonna Lily, Lilium candidum. Gloria Suess ©

This spectacular wildflower is found today in a few nooks and crannies in the high valleys of upper Western Galilee and Mt. Hermon, where it blooms in the month of May. Three to ten large snow-white blossoms are grouped along the top of a stem two to four feet tall. They remain open day and night; their heavy sweet scent increases in the darkness. The present-day “Easter lily” originated from this wild species and is forced into bloom for the holiday by hothouse methods.

“Madonna of Humility” by Fra Angelico (ca. 1440). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Medieval Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land revered the Madonna Lily as a symbol of holiness and purity. Artists such as Titian, Lippi and Botticelli included it in paintings of the Virgin Mary. A seventeenth-century papal edict gave the lily official religious confirmation. It was sought and over-picked to near extinction.

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This article originally appeared in issue 46/47 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

  • Gloria Suess [1932-2010]

    Gloria Suess [1932-2010]

    Gloria E. M. Suess (1932-2010) lived in Israel for several years. The amazing multitude and variety of Israeli wildflowers inspired Suess to start photographing all she could find. As volunteer secretary, editor and artist for the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, she was…
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