Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 26, 2013

Three Blossoms Red

We have not had a Christmas tree for the past couple of years.  Well, let me put it differently.  We have had trees (of a sort) which we decorated with lights and ornaments at Christmas time.  But they are not evergreens, traditionally the kind of tree one calls a “Christmas” tree.  This year our Christmas trees (yes, there are two) are an orange tree now grown to about 6 feet tall from a little stringy shoot; a present from our daughter.  The other one is an hibiscus “tree”, an orphan near death when we got it which Mariellen lovingly nursed back to health.

I am not sure if in their native place Hibiscus can become trees, but this one gives evidence it would move in that direction if allowed to do so.  It rivals our orange tree, a sharp thorned shiny leaved fellow whose defenses make me wonder if it is what it was labelled on its arrival here.  Neither blossoms nor fruit have yet appeared on it.  But, as I like to say, “Hope is a Christian virtue.”  Saber length thorns, though?  They are the tree’s delight.

Both spend their summers outside and come indoors to spend the winter with us.  Out there on the deck, or the lawn in back, they thrive and at least the hibiscus blooms; great lush red blossoms, tropical extravagances here in tight lipped rocky New England, in the Granite State.  Never though do any more than one or two buds open on the tree at once.  They stay for a day or two and quickly fade.  That seems appropriate in a climate that favors low bush blueberries and hard wood forests of maple and elm; where the thin soil produces a crop of rocks more easily than a crop of, umm, crops.

You may imagine, then, the delighted tone in Mariellen’s voice when on Christmas Eve she made an announcement while gently watering and grooming her plants.  “It looks as if we are going to have three hibiscus blossoms tomorrow for Christmas,” she said; her voice ringing with delight and excitement.  I came into the room we call our Oratory, the room we have decorated with selected articles from our hoard of Christmas decorations, and beheld the sight.  Three buds indeed were coloring, going into labor as it were, on the tree.  The analogy, you can see, wasn’t lost on us.

We stood a while looking on the sight and being a little thankful for the favor shown, the gift given to us by nature and nature’s God.  Mariellen let her friends on Facebook know.  She even included a photo.  As I looked at the picture a few words flashed across my consciousness: Three red blossoms on Christmas morn…

To me they had the sound of some old carol or other.

We went to bed after a quiet Christmas Eve together, and I went to sleep thinking about the gift growing downstairs on the tree, the blossoms being born.  Truth to tell, I was a little excited in the same way I had been all those long years ago when I would go to sleep anticipating the magical arrival of bright packages under the tree at dawn.

And, in the same spirit I was wide awake at 4:00 am wondering if what I had wished for had come true.  While I lay abed wondering another few words fell into line behind the first ones about red blossoms on Christmas morn, and I just had to get up and go downstairs to see.  Quietly I crept out of the bedroom and softly went down the stairs, trying not to step on the creaky ones.

In the light from the outside spotlight on our creche, the one we leave lit all night on Christmas Eve, I clearly saw three red blossoms on the hibiscus tree.  Then I sat down and looked at them.  After a while I grabbed a pen and wrote down what I was thinking.  For what it’s worth, here is the poem that got me out of bed at 4:00AM on Christmas morning:


Three blossoms red on Christmas morn
Before the little child new born:
An angel, a prophet, a martyr red
In homage bow before rude bed,
Hymn the King who sleeps, now, still
Beside his Virgin Mother mild.

Gabriel is the angel. Red
His armor glows, his two edged sword
Sheathed but ready to his hand
With might and main his King defend;
The sleeping King who’ll die and rise
At dawn on Easter glorified.

Elijah, prophet of flame stormed night
For whom fire fell on Carmel’s height,
Whom heaven’s steeds swept away
Returned now, kneels, bends to pray
The little child, God’s very Word
To harrow hell and free the dead.

Abel, innocent, is there
Beside the other two in prayer
Whose faith and meekness bringing death
Won for him heaven with expiring breath
Sings now for God’s own saving Son
Of martyr’s end and victory won.

These then, bright flowers three
Whose beauty frames the Mystery
Resting wrapped in Virgin’s smiles,
God of all her infant child
Sees gleaming three with Love’s bright eyes.
And sees His death.  And sees us rise.

And, here are The Holy Blossoms Three as I have decided to call them:

The Holy Blossoms Three

The Holy Blossoms Three

That’s Gabriel at the top.

Elijah is next, nearly in the center.

Abel, meek and humble, is down there at the bottom of the picture on the right.


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