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Reflection 3: The Passionflower


The passionflower that we have all come to love and appreciate for its unique beauty and Easter connection… is the same species that Spanish conquistadors came to use as symbols to teach Christianity to the indigenous people of the New World.


According to the conquistadors and their teachings…

1) The five petals and five sepals of the plant were said to represent the 10 apostles (leaving out Judas, the betrayer of Jesus; and Peter, because he denied knowing Christ). 

2) The purple corolla has approximately 72 filaments, which reportedly was the number of thorns in Jesus’ crown.

3) The three prominent stigmas of the plant were said to represent the nails used on the cross

4) The five stamens were claimed to symbolize the number of wounds in Jesus’ hands. *Catholics and natives living in South and Central America still call the plant the “flower of the five wounds.”

5) The lance-like leaf lobes were explained as being symbolic of the spear that punctured Jesus’ side.

6) The dark spots under the leaves are said to symbolize the 33 pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus. 

7) The flowers die after a single day – the time Jesus spent on the cross. 

8) And because the petals re-close over the ovary, the conquistadors pointed out that this was similar to Jesus being placed in the tomb and seen as the “hidden wisdom” that constitutes the “mysteries of the cross.”

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