The crocus is one of the first familiar spring flowers to appear in our parks and gardens. These simple flowers are easy to grow and multiply year after year. There are a staggering 80 varieties of crocus with colours ranging from purple to orange, from yellow to white and everything in between.
The prophet Isiah wrote about the crocus, and we might assume he is writing about the crocus that splashes our English gardens with early hues of colour ( Crocus vernus ). But with a little research, it seems as if he is writing about a different crocus species (Crocus hyemalis) . Commonly known as winter saffron. Which has a white flower and is native to the rocky areas and undergrowth of Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.
Isaiah writes about a world which has become dry and full of death, and how it will once again become a place of abundant “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah Chapter 35 Verses 1-2.
Isaiah mentions the crocus by name, he would have known that the appearance of the crocus for the people of Palestine was a welcome sight, after a long, hot dry summer. This humble crocus flower is heralded by the autumn rains, and sometimes even blooms in anticipation of the rains; almost miraculously, it seems to sense when the life-giving rains are coming.Isaiah’s scroll dates from the time (some 700 years before Christ) when the kingdom of Israel had split in two. The people in the south, in Judah, needed a sign (hope) that God had not abandoned them completely.Isaiah’s poetry prophesies that when the crocus shall bloom, there will come a time of prosperity and abundance; but first the people of Israel must learn to trust in God for all their needs. God’s promise, that their descendants would live in their own land, a promise that would only be fulfilled if the people trusted God completely. Only then would their lives blossom and bloom like the humble, determined crocus. A tangible hope rooted in the indigenous wisdom of the land.
The crocus is a storied plant, and as such, it is also rich in symbolism, The purple crocus flowers that grace us with their presence during the dull cold months of February can be seen as a symbol of the resurrection. A colourful reminder that there is always hope, even in the darkest of times.
The Yellow crocus’ that we often find growing alongside the purple crocus symbolises love. This is because when St Valentine was imprisoned in Rome for his Christian beliefs his jailer had a daughter – Julia – who had been born blind. The jailer asked Valentine if he could cure the blindness. Valentine couldn’t promise this, but he did offer to teach the girl: he read stories of Rome’s history to her; he described the world of nature to her; he taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted in his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.On the eve of his execution Valentine asked the jailer for a paper, pen and ink. He wrote a farewell note and handed it to the jailer to give to Julia. He urged her to stay close to God, and he signed it ‘…From Your Valentine…’ His sentence was carried out the next day, 14th February. When the jailer went home, he was greeted by his blind daughter. The little girl opened the note and discovered a yellow crocus inside. As the girl looked down at the crocus she saw brilliant colours for the first time in her life! The girl’s eyesight had been restored.
Whether the crocus’ you see this spring are, purple, yellow or white take the time to see them. Don’t be tempted to walk past them quickly or to be pulled in a different direction. Prayerfully walk among their stories of hope and love. Or to put this more simply and in the words of the psalmist ‘ Be still and know I am God.
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