This broken, battered world of ours is a world of thorns that tears at the hearts of the virtuous.
This is not to say that created matter is inherently evil. No, in the essence of its creation, it was made good. The world was not designed to be so inhospitable and dark. Human error — under the influence and temptation of our twisted, bitter enemy — made it thus. And we are all rather prickly ourselves, aren’t we? Whatever our sins, we are sinners. Sin and death and destruction are our birthright, our inheritance from our primordial mother, she who said “Yes” to the serpent-cloaked prince of destruction and ate of the fruit of everlasting condemnation.
Now all earthly creation is tainted with sin. All things fade that should not fade. All things die which should have life in abundance. There is not a one of us who gets off clean, who is not at some time a thorn in the side of another, or even in our own sides. We were built to love, but the darkness inside us drives us to injure. There can be no peace in a world like this. It is a world stillborn, hopeless.
And yet. . . not so.
For God in His infinite Love for us — yes, us, those broken, chaotic creatures who err and disappoint on nearly a daily basis — would not let us fall into ruin if we could be saved (that is, if we would let Him save us). So He promised our folly-ridden mother, Eve, and her noodle-boned husband, Adam, that He would fix the wrongs they had done. That He would bring the universe back into balance. That He would restore order and tranquility by paying the blood price for our crimes.
And so, all that was done had to be undone. As Eve was a woman –born without sin — who chose death and disobedience, God created a new Eve — born also without sin — who was offered the same choice and chose life and obedience.
And as Adam had been a weak-willed and passive man who let himself be swayed by evil when it presented itself in the guise of love, out of whose flesh was formed Eve-who-fell, so God created His Son, True God and True Man, out of the flesh of the Blessed Virgin. And the God-Man was strong and disciplined and sacrificed even His life to unknit the tangled web of darkness we were trapped in.
Thus, we find ourselves able to understand this title of Our Lady as a Lily Among Thorns.
The lily is a flower that has been associated with Our Lady since early days. It is a flower of true purity and elegance, though simple in design. It is so associated with innocence and purity that it was co-opted by medieval alchemists as a symbol for prima materia, what they believed was the prime building block of all created things. So it is fitting then, that this flower represents the Mother of God, human nature perfected.
Note that while the lily is surrounded by hostile, tearing thorns, it has no weapon to defend itself from their attacks. The fallen world will always be hostile towards Our Lady and any who have a strong devotion to her. The lily’s petals are velvety and delicate, easily pierced. It is not an easy thing to be this flower.
And yet it survives. It flourishes under the guiding hand of God. For anyone who turns away from their thorny nature and offers themselves fully to the Divine will surely be protected. That does not mean that they are free from danger (if the danger you mean is attack, persecution, discomfort, etc.). However, those who align themselves with God’s Will surely earn a greater defense against their own thorns. And better yet, they will serve as a beacon to the others in the garden — not so radiant as this Lily, but still a light in the brambles — to radiate God’s love and mercy to all who are lost.
And is that not worth pain and discomfort? Is that not worth giving up evil and turning towards good?
Follow Our Lady’s example. And when God asks you if you’re ready to follow His Will. . .
-E. G. Norton