This morning I began to arrange little white roses in a vase for my wife’s birthday. I discovered one of the roses had been damaged within the cellophane wrapping, and as I removed them, it’s little pale head tumbled to the floor. In a poignant moment (which I admit was tinged with a certain sentimentalism) I felt sad for the little rose: separated from its brothers, unable to stand proudly atop it’s once taut stem in the cool clear water, smiling at the world for a few proud days. He would fade quicker than his friends, tossed unceremoniously onto the compost heap, an ignoble fate shared with vegetable peelings and grass cuttings.
Initially I discarded it, then thought better of it, and placed it in a small chinese ceramic dish beside the vase.
Vaguely, Bible stories and parables told by christ flitted through my mind, something about more rejoicing amongst the angels over one lost soul returned than those who had never strayed, or was it a lost sheep, or perhaps a little bird falling to the ground and God knowing all about it; a prodigal son who’d squandered his inheritance returning to be greeted by his rejoicing father, and a prophet named Hosea marrying a woman who subsequently left him to become a temple prostitute (yet lovingly taking her back and caring for her) … I can’t remember exactly which is which. The stories run into one other, confused and indistinct yet insistent: what remains of their narratives is this sense that none is lost, not one, that the broken and apparently useless vessel is neither discarded nor lost but may be filled anew so to speak.
In some way I cannot adequately articulate, I feel that the rose is a metaphor for apokatastasis, ἀποκατάστασις, the return, the restoration spoken of by St. Gregory of Nyssa, of Origen, of Clement of Alexandria. By Jesus.
Source: http://www.brill.com/christian-doctrine-apokatastasis and: Ilaria Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena
Of course, none of this is capable of being rationalalized: words are symbols, inadequate at best, our attempt to name the un-nameable.
Perhaps the rose is just a rose: why seek meanings and metaphors?
To attempt to rationalize a mystery is, finally, a fruitless endeavor: before mystery our most appropriate response may be silence born of intellectual humility. The Psalmist (and Habakkuk too, I think) express this as the hebrew סֶלָה, Selah, “pause, and think of that”.
Think of that, Selah.
Apokatastasis is mystery: “Christ is all, and in all” (Saint Paul, in his letter to the Colossians).
Perhaps it is this longing for apokatastasis that makes a foolish man pick up a broken flower, and what makes God pick up a broken man.