Lily #midnighthaiku

Where inner light shines

The gilding of the lily

Seems superfluous

The picture was taken in a chapel of the Cathedral Church in Sheffield, an ornate nineteenth century building based upon a fourteenth century design.  After the Reformation, when the Church of England split from Rome in 1534, Catholicism remained outlawed until the eighteenth century. When it became once more possible to worship openly, the Cathedral Church was built, with much colour and gilding, yet for us, the most interesting thing we found there was a series of depictions of the Stations of the Cross that gave birth to a series of esoteric interpretations of their hidden symbolism.

The Madonna lily is a symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus, herself symbolic of all that is pure and humble. It seems odd that in so many churches, both her statues and her symbols are often gilded… yet gold has ever been a symbol of both the visible sun and the incorruptable purity of an inner light. Long before Christianity came into being, the Egyptians and other ancient cultures prized gold for its untarnishable brightness, associating it with the sun.

In Greek mythology, the lily was born from the milk that flowed to earth from the breast of Hera, wife of the great god Zeus. The milk that flowed heavenward became the Milky Way.  Yet it is Aphrodite who gave the flower its pistil. The French royal symbol, the fleur de lys, may be based upon the flower, said to have grown from the tears shed by Eve as she left Eden and the lily, symbol of both royalty and divinity, given by the Virgin to Clovis at his christening.

The origin of the phrase ‘to gild the lily’ is open to debate. The earliest reference seems to be a misquote from Shakespeare’s King John:

Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

With its beauty, fragrance and such a rich symbolism, the lily hardly seems to need the additional help of art.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in flowers, Motherhood, mystery, Poetry, Spirituality, Stuart France and Sue Vincent, The Silent Eye and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Lily #midnighthaiku

  1. Very interesting – I always thought that lily’s were somehow associated with funerals. Your write up on lily’s is very informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      They were…and often are. I have a feeling the strong perfume may have had a practical purpose in the days before embalming. Symbolically, perhaps they signified a return to purity in death…or a return to the embrace of the Great Mother.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One never knows such large amounts of studied knowledge, rather it is infused precariously, waiting for the right soul to take it in unknowingly.


  3. You’ve done a lot of research for this post, Sue. Lovely church. —- Suzanne


  4. Denis1950 says:

    Wonderful artistry here Sue and much to take in


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