Rorate Caeli

Florete flores...

Florete flores quasi lilium, et date odorem, et frondete in gratiam, et collaudate canticum, et benedicite Dominum in operibus suis. (Communion Antiphon for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Ecclesiasticus xxxix, 19: Send forth flowers, as the lily, and yield a smell, and bring forth leaves in grace, and praise with canticles, and bless the Lord in His works.)

Consider, first, in Mary the flower of precious virginity, which is virginity itself. Of this it is said in Isaias: "The desert shall rejoice and shall flower as a lily." Mary can fittingly be said to be a desert, who was so willing to be alone, who was in her voluntary solitude visited by an angel. Therefore St. Ambrose well says: "Alone in the inner part of her house, she whom no man could see, he found her alone without a companion, alone without a witness." In what manner this desert, the Virgin Mary, should rejoice, let her say herself: "And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior."

This desert of earth flowered like a lily by virginity. O angelical lily! O heavenly flower! O truly heavenly flower whom that supercelestial Bee hath so loved. For St. Bernard saith: "That Bee who feedeth among the lilies, who dwelt in a flowering fatherland, when He flew to Nazareth, which is interpreted a flower, flew towards thee, and came to the sweet smelling flower of thy perpetual virginity, he rested upon it, he embraced it."

The flower of virginity has as many petals, so to speak, as the conditions and praises of virginity. Oh, how greatly the crowns of this flower were multiplied by Mary! St. Ambrose says: "In the whole world the flower Mary weaves unfading crowns, and keeps the royal court of purity with immaculate affection, until integrity perseveres to the palm of victory, that in maidens it may grasp the trophy of sanctity, and in the footprints of the Virgin Mary, attain to the heavenly bridal chamber."

Secondly, consider in Mary the flower of virtuous reputation, of manners and of life, and hear what she herself says: "My flowers are the fruits of honor and riches" (Ecclus. XXIV, 23.) Of these it is also said: "Our bed is flowering."

... Note also that the flower of honesty, of a good reputation, yea, the flower of any virtue has, as it were, as many petals as it has good and meritorious works to show. Oh, how flowering was that earth, how flowering was the bed of Mary, who in the flowering virtue of her life flourished in the beauty of every virtue, as St. Bernard testifies, saying: "Thou art the box of holy perfumes, O Mary, gathered by the heavenly Perfumer, delightfully blooming with the beautiful flowers of every virtue, among which three are excellent above all, the violet of humility, the lily of chastity, and the rose of charity."

Conrad of Saxony
Speculum Beatæ Mariæ Virginis