Rose as Symbol

The rose (Latin, rosa, in Greek, rhodon) also is a symbol that has a rich and ancient history. And like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life. The rose is the flower of the goddess Venus but also the blood of Adonis and of Christ. It is a symbol of transmutation - that of taking food from the earth and transmuting it into the beautiful fragrant rose. The rose garden is a symbol of Paradise. It is the place of the mystic marriage. In ancient Rome, roses were grown in the funerary gardens to symbolize resurrection. The thorns have represented suffering and sacrifice as well as the sins of the Fall from Paradise.

The rose has also been used as a sign of silence and secrecy. The word sub rosa "under the rose" referring to the demand for discretion whenever a rose was hung from the ceiling at a meeting. In the Mysteries roses were sacred to Isis. It is also the flower of her son Harpocrates or younger Horus, the god of silence.

Thomas Worrell, "A Brief Study of the Rose Cross Symbol"

In Christian art, the white rose is a symbol of purity, the gold or yellow rose a symbol of impossible perfection and papal benediction, and the red rose a symbol for martyrdom. The rose is a frequent symbol for the Virgin Mary, who is called a "rose without thorns" since she was free of original sin. This may refer to St. Ambrose's legend that the rose grew, without thorns, in the Garden of Eden. After the Fall, it became an earthly plant, and the thorns appeared as a reminder of man's sins and fall from grace. The scent and beauty remained as a poignant reminder of the lost perfection of Paradise.

The five petals of the wild rose are equated with the five joys of Mary and the five letters in her name Maria. The Christmas rose, a hardy white flower with five petals that blooms at Christmas when the rest of the garden is dormant, is a symbol of the Nativity and the coming of the Messiah. The Rose of Jericho, or Rose of the Virgin, also known as the Resurrection plant, is supposed to have sprung up wherever the Holy Family stopped during the Flight into Egypt. It is said to have blossomed at the Nativity, closed at the Crucifixion, and reopened at Easter.

On the rosary, the Joyful Mysteries, those relating to the happy events in Mary's life, were white roses; those relating to her suffering, the Sorrowful Mysteries, were red; and the Glorious Mysteries, the triumphant events, were symbolized by the yellow or golden rose. The rosary can be considered a symbolic wreath of red, white, and yellow roses.

Wreaths of roses crowning angels, saints, or the redeemed in Heaven are symbolic of their heavenly joy.

Gertrude Grace Sill, A Handbook of Symbols in Christian Art