The Easter Lily


He is risen!


We’ve been celebrating a lot over here. There have been cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, Easter ham, and — of course! — my famous lamb bread.

Presenting… lamb bread!

And so, let’s go back a little bit and look at artwork depicting the moment of the Resurrection, when Jesus Christ burst out of the tomb!

If you haven’t seen this artwork of the Resurrection, I would be so surprised! I seem to be seeing it everywhere… we even had it come as a mailer from a charity! It’s one of the more popular images of the Resurrection, simply because it uses a lot of symbolism that is common to the modern day Easter celebration. Take a look!

Resurrection of Christ, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, c. 1875. Frederiksborg Museum, Copenhagen Denmark. Via
Resurrection of Christ, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, c. 1875. Frederiksborg Museum, Copenhagen Denmark.

It is a fairly typical resurrection picture for this era, in the late 19th century and early 20 century! Christ bursts out the tomb, draped in the cloths he was buried in. Angels adore Him.

But there’s some fun details as well… you know how I’ve pointed out before that a lot of Resurrection artworks depict the guard at the tomb? Well, you can’t see a single guard here! But you can see a helmet and a spear, as well as a fire that is starting to go out. So, while they’re not explicitly in the scene, there is definitely a suggestion that they might be right outside the scene!

Now, take a look at what is behind Jesus: Easter lilies.

To us modern folks, Easter lilies are pretty ubiquitous. In fact, my husband got me some Easter lilies this year for Easter!

But, in fact, Easter lilies weren’t commonly depicted in Resurrection artwork until the 19th century. You see, the Easter lily was a flower that was indigenous to Japan. It was only until 1777 in which a Swedish naturalist found the flower in Japan. The flowers made their way in Europe in the 19th century. At first, it was named the Bermuda lily, as it was specially grown in that British colony. Boring name, right? but it later got rebranded as the Easter lily as it would bloom in springtime, right around Easter. And now, it is a very popular flower to have that is associated with Easter!

…did I mention that my husband got me some Easter lilies this year? 🙂

So! The Easter lily tradition is a very new tradition, relatively speaking. In fact, you basically won’t find any Easter lilies appear in Resurrection art in artworks before the 19th century.

Mind you! Lilies have been a common symbolism in artwork for a while. They are an especially common symbolism for the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and other virgin saints, as lilies traditionally symbolize purity.

Yet, the lily also symbolizes new life and hope. After all, lilies are perennial bulbs that appear every year around the same time. So, even when they seem to die, you can just bury the plant and then see it bloom every year after. It is a reminder to us that death is not the end.

And so, happy Easter! May God bless you this Easter season!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

Leave a Reply