This excerpt is taken from Christianity Today (April 2000), written by Virginia Stem Owens;
Although it has not happened since 1913, and won’t happen again till 2008, Easter can come as early as March 23, just barely inside the official limits of spring. But whether Holy Week falls in March or April makes little difference in Texas. It’s always springtime here by then.
People like the dogwood to be in full bloom for Good Friday. They like to point out to one another how the dogwood’s white blossom, shaped like an ivory Maltese cross, each point dented and tinged with red, is an emblem of Christ’s crucifixion wounds. They even send one another greeting cards bearing the so-called Legend of the Dogwood, which links the tree with the wood used for the cross.
The dogwood trees are usually blooming at about the same time I teach college sophomores the Housman poem that begins,
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Most of my students have never seen cherry trees in bloom. The Texas weather is too mild and genial for the cherry’s hearty nature, so I rely on the dogwood tree to furnish them with a reasonable facsimile of Housman’s vision. The decorative dogwood chooses to display its white blossoms along the highways precisely when they will be the most conspicuous—before their own leaves unfurl and before the other, taller trees have put on their new leaves. Thus, the shadowy recesses of the winter-bare forests provide the perfect background for the white blossoms.”
The Legend of the Dogwood
There is a legend, that at the time of the Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber of the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this, and in His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering said to it: “Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross. ..two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.”
I recognize that this is just a legend but I wanted to post these two entries because I’ve always loved the Dogwood blooms. If I look at them and think about what my Savior did for me that’s a good thing. He created the tree, the beautiful bloom, and you and me to enjoy it!