The Radiant Lily Flower

Taken from Crown of the Virgin: An Ancient Meditation on Mary’s Beauty, Virtue, and Sanctity, here, Saint  Ildephonsus of Toledo reflects on Mary as a radiant lily flower—a symbol of her most perfect purity.

You, O blessed Mary, are:
the treasury and Edenic garden of blessing,
the column and foundation of true faith,
the splendor and brilliance of grace,
the vessel of mercy and forgiveness,
the Empress of glory, and teacher of Truth,
the foundation of God’s Church,
the font of wisdom,
the palace of modesty,
the hope of mercy and of salvation,
the promised land of beatitude,
the Mother of the One who is the Truth Itself,
the Mistress of salvation,
the lover of the humble,
the honor of the chaste,
the light of sinners,
the virtue of the penitent,
the instructress of the perfect,
the joy of mortals and of angels.

To add to the glory and beauty of your crown, I will position in the fourth place a lily, a flower both delightful and beautiful. The lily has shining whiteness in its color. It has sweetness in its fragrance, smoothness in its surface, and radiance in its beauty. These attributes are all indeed most apt for your heavenly crown. For in the whiteness of the lily, virginity is signified—and you were the Virgin most pure in heart and most chaste in body. And just as you possessed untainted chastity in your body, so you rejoiced always in perfect innocence and purity in your holy and serene conscience. You were indeed a virgin in giving birth, and you remained forever so—perpetually inviolate, eternally pure. Adorned with the luminescent, roseate glow of maidenhood in your flesh, and in the splendor of purity in your noble soul, you were most pleasing, most beloved, to God the Son—with this, your double ornament of virtue.

You are uniquely our Mistress, our Queen, our teacher. There is none other who pleased God so much, nor built for him so incomparable and so splendid a palace of grace and beauty! And so, just as in comparison to God, none are to be found truly good; so, in comparison to you, none are to be found perfect, none to be found holy.

And what is there which so sweetly enthrals and enraptures the soul as your divine name? Of this holy name, a poet has dared to sing:

The fragrant name of Mary,
Showered in golden grace,
And bewilderingly aromatic—
An alluring scent
of the promise of heaven itself!
It is a light more radiant than the sun.
It is life—and more than life!—to those who lay dead.

And to the humble, silent, and dark-robed monk
It is a sweet and delicious honey,
Mellifluous nectar from a hallowed source,
Holy, and more than holy—
It is ecstatic and life-giving inebriation;
It is, indeed, nothing less than divine!

You are indeed the Lady most gentle and humble. Sacred Scripture proclaims you to be the Mistress of gentleness, the model of kindness, the rule of modesty and the perfect example of mercy. In truth, you are “the marvellously beautiful maiden, the most lovely of virgins, and wholly unknown by man.” There is no other to rival you in beauty, nor in wisdom. And because you are the most captivating of all creatures—with the ornament of purest virginity, the beauty of immaculate sanctity, and the adornment of every possible virtue—you are most pleasing in the eyes of the High King of heaven!

Who could ever suffice to describe your virtues, or to explain your wonders? You are higher than the celestial heavens, and yet more profound than the hidden depths of the ocean. You carried within your womb God himself, whom the entire universe could not contain. You restored that which was lost by our first mother, Eve. And you brought salvation to the human race when we languished, lost in sin, by a singular transaction of grace and love. You transcend all other creatures and have established a bond between the heavenly and earthly realities, dissolving the chains of sin and death which bound us.

O royal Virgin, ornate with all virtue, you totally captivated the gaze of the angelic citizens of heaven and utterly captured the heart of the King himself! And thus you conceived without sin, and carried your Child without burden, and brought forth God himself to our world. You were the Mother of him whose Father was the Divinity.

You are the flower of flowers, the beloved of the Lord! You are above all virtue and all beauty. Without a touch of shame you were found to be mother of the Savior. You merited to carry the Lord of all, and you alone—O Virgin—were found worthy to nurse the High King of the angels; to illuminate the world with the radiance of your virtues, and to enlighten all faithful hearts with the luminescence of true justice. I salute and hail you, therefore—O Queen of Virgins, fragrant rose of the vernal springtide, purest lily of the valley! And thus saluting you, let me conclude this chapter.


Hail, O you who are full of celestial grace,
And full of God, and full of glory.
The lilies of the holy virgins surround you,
All virtues are your companions,
O Virgin of God, O Virgin Mother,
Who were most gently shaded by the supernal Spirit.
A glowing cloud that illumines the star-bejewelled firmament,
A tower of gleaming ebony,
A noble, crimson-hued rose,
You trample underfoot the gall-drenched legions of the Inferno,
And the sword of Divine victory is commended to you,
As its high and eternal guardian.
You are the healing of humanity,
The Mother of God, the crown of virgins!
Unto you—after God himself—
is the highest honor, glory and praise
Ceaselessly and fittingly due!

This article is taken from a chapter in Crown of the Virgin: An Ancient Meditation on Mary’s Beauty, Virtue, and Sanctity by Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo which is available from TAN Books



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