Hyacinth: Thoughts about Lent

By Bishop Peggy Johnson

As soon as the “Produce Junction” greenhouse put the hyacinths on their flower table, I had to have one.  It is still winter but seeing the spring bulb plants spoke to me of the coming of Lent. 

Lent is the season of the church year in which we ponder the suffering and death of Jesus, strive to repent of our sinful ways, engage in acts of holiness in spirit and truth, and look forward to the celebration of Easter.  Hyacinths are always an object lesson for me.

I paid my $2 and came home with this little plant.  I picked one that had not yet bloomed so I could watch it slowly blossom. Prior to its sprouting, it had been a dead-looking brown bulb. The power of the resurrection gave it life and it began to grow in the winter soil.

Death and life, sin and repentance, despair and hope stand side by side.  During the season of Lent, we must ponder this reality that “we are dust and to dust we must return.”  But we are also called to new life in Christ, both here and in the eternal home to come.

The name of this plant “hyacinth” comes from Greek mythology. The young prince Hyacinthus was killed by a discus thrown to the back of his head. As the story goes, wherever his blood drops flowed there grew a hyacinth flower. He was ultimately resurrected by the Greek god Zeus, and he obtained immortality. 

This resonates with the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, in Christ we receive the forgiveness of our sins through confession and belief, and all may obtain the resurrection through him.  Jesus’ blood was shed for the world that God loved so much.  “Sorrow and love flow mingled down” in this eternal truth of salvation.

However, the main reason I had to have a hyacinth was for its fragrance. Nothing speaks “spring is here” to me like the pleasant smell of those curly pedals of a hyacinth.  It is better than any perfume money can buy, in my opinion.  The Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual fragrance as he writes to the Philippians who sent a generous monetary gift to him: “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

During Lent we often engage in some kinds of personal sacrifice: giving up chocolate, giving up coffee, giving up whining, etc.  A better way to observe a holy Lent would be to sacrifice our time, talent and treasure to perform or support good works in the world. 

Instead of “giving up,” we should “give out.”  “Give out” assistance to those in need. “Give out” of our abundance to others in sacrificial ways. “Give out” of our hearts because of our deep love and gratitude for Christ.

My hyacinth is finished blooming now; and yet the promise of another flower next spring is hidden in its little bulb.  Life is tenacious, as it is the very Spirit of God. Life and love are stronger than death and hate. No matter the present darkness or death around us, ultimately there will be life and it goes on and on forever.

Observe a holy and sacrificial Lenten season!

Republished from The Bishop’s Blog.