I recall singing that old hymn, “Where the Roses Never Fade” at funerals. Tears fell down as people gathered to say their last farewell to a lost loved one. During those times, when words never seem enough, I’m always grateful for the promise of a life that never ends.
I am going to a city
Where the streets with gold are laid,
Where the tree of life is blooming
And the roses never fade.
We pass through many shadowed valleys here, and the soul is weighed down by the grief and loss of all that fades in this life. What comfort it is to lift our souls up, and to look for the roses that won’t fade.
“Too many people feel like emotional robots these days, and are not willing or able to engage in the ups and downs of life.” says psychologist Betty Phillips. “This emotional numbness,“ she says, “feels like the phrase from Shakespeare, ‘creeping in this petty pace from day-to-day until the last syllable of recorded time.’” The antidote to emotional barrenness, is found in our ability to smell the roses, and experience a full range of emotions such as joy and love in beauty.
The roses that don’t fade are the great spiritual virtues such as faith, hope and love. By desiring and pursuing these qualities within us, we will discover the life that lasts.
“A man is raised from the earth by two wings–” says Kempis, “simplicity and purity.”
The soul is transformed like a butterfly when it looses itself in Christ so that it may gain heavenly wings. The Messiah proclaimed in his suffering, “I am a worm, and not a man.” Psa 22:6. We understand from this that Jesus on the cross was reduced to the likeness of sinful man, the worm, in our place. Because of Jesus, like the butterfly, we who were the worms are becoming people of righteousness. This transformation happens when we learn to despise all that is passing and hold on to what is eternal. Teresa of Avila says,
Oh, to see the restlessness of this charming little butterfly, although never in its life has it been more tranquil and at peace! May God be praised! It knows not where to stay nor take its rest; everything on earth disgusts it after what it has experienced, when we are transformed like the butterfly, having risen from the cocoon, we never again find a permanent resting place in this world. (Interior Castle)
Nevertheless, our new freedom brings with it new desires and the enjoyment of the things that last: eternal qualities such as faith, hope and love. These qualities are the nectar the little butterfly now drinks.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25
Faith inspires in us to see beyond our immediate situation and its passing troubles.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Hope gives us an ability to rise above our dashed expectations and remaining optimistic about what is still possible. “Hope is not disappointed,” says Paul, for it trusts in the ultimate goodness and mercy of God.
Love finds a way to heal and restore everything that is broken. Love conquers all.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4