The Lily of Humanity

There’s an old tradition within Christianity of relating Easter to all of nature. Perhaps the most famous example of this is found in the 6th-century Easter Hymn, ‘Hail thee festival day’:

Lo, the fair beauty of the earth, from the death of the winter arising,
Every good gift of the year, now with its Master returns.

Daily the loveliness grows, adorned with the glory of blossom;
Green is the woodland with leaves, bright are the meadows with flowers.
He who was nailed to the cross is Lord and the ruler of all things;
All things created on earth worship the Maker of all.

Images like this remind us that Easter isn’t just about the redemption of humanity but also (and even more) about the renewal of all creation. In this way, every Spring declares that life triumphs over death, that winter eventually gives way to freshness and new life.

One of my favourite songs about Easter within this naturist tradition is by a little known medieval Franciscan troubadour, Iacapone da Todi. He came out of the same milieu as the composer of the well-known hymn ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’. It’s too long to quote in full (and I’m sure English butchers the medieval Italian), but I offer it as an Easter present. Christs anesti!

Christ has flowered in the pure flesh:
now let human nature rejoice.

Human nature, you were so darkened
that you had become like burnt hay!
But your Bridegroom has renewed you:
do not be ungrateful for such a lover.

Such a lover is the flower of purity
born in the field of virginity.
He is the lily of humankind,
of sweetness, and of perfect fragrance.

Divine fragrance he has brought us from heaven,
from the garden where He was planted:
This God was sent to us from the blessed Father
a twining of flowers…

The natural color of beauty he had took,
on dire lividness when he was reviled:
He bore bitterness sweetly,
and let his great worth be humiliated.

Mighty worth was brought low,
that breathing flower was trampled underfoot,
surrounded by piercing thorns,
and its great splendor covered.

Splendor that lightens any shade
was darkened by painful grief,
and his light was quite obscured,
in a sepulcher in the flower-garden.

The Flower placed there lay and slept,
it soon came to life again and arose,
blessed body and pure reflowering,
and appeared with great brightness.

A kindly brightness appeared to Magdalen
in the garden who lamented him as dead,
and comforted her in her great weeping,
so that her loving heart was rapt.

Her heart comforted the brethren,
and raised up many new flowers,
and stayed in the garden with them
with those lambs singing for love.

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