Of Hellebore and Hope

In the flowerbed close to my little brick patio lives a helleborus niger. Although Pennsylvania winters are quite cold, this variety of hellebore actually begins to bloom in December. When the days are short and cold, helleborus niger generously offers a vision of spring!

First, my little hellebore tentatively offered me only a few white flowers, but when I looked closely, I could see a dozen or more buds preparing to enliven wintertime. And so they did. More and more flowers bloomed all through January and February, even when they were bowed down by snow. Now it’s early spring, and the stalks are overflowing with new white flowers and older pink ones waving in the raw March wind. (Unlike humans, older hellebore blossoms turn pink with age.)

For me, this hellebore is the flower of hope. In the bleakness of winter, it reminds me to hold on, that warmer weather will eventually come. Even more than a reminder of the future though, hellebore lives as though springtime has already arrived, blooming when no other flower dares to hold up its head! It embodies hope by blooming in the middle of winter’s cold and stormy weather.

We use the word hope frequently. It often expresses something we wish would happen, such as “I hope it will be sunny tomorrow,” or “I hope I get a raise.” True hope, however, is much more than a wish for the future. Holding onto a hope is a decision that can affect how we live in the present.

My little hellebore doesn’t say deep in its roots, “I wish it were April already. ” Instead it lives and blooms as if it actually is April. “Yes,” it whispered to me as it prepared to begin blooming back in December, “I have hope in springtime, and I’m going to live springtime right now!”

I can learn from my hellebore; I can try to live my hope. I hope for a world where people live in peace, where we humans treat each other with respect and love. I am challenged to live as if that hope were a reality right now. I am called to treat others with respect and love, to see a spark of the Divine in each person I meet.

Bearing witness to our hope through how we live is a powerful spiritual practice. It’s a discipline that will stretch us into blooming more than we ever thought possible. And we’ll never finish blooming. In fact, we can grow stronger in hope as we practice it – as with any exercise we might take on.

We can also grow stronger in our hope when we’re part of a community that shares it. I live in the hope that love is stronger than hate, and I need a community to support me in making that hope part of my daily life. If my hope flickers, companions are there to encourage me and lend me their strength for the journey.

What hope do you have that you want to live into? What hope can bloom in your life? And where will your support come from as you practice living it?

Helleborus niger is rightly known as the “Christmas rose.” In my garden it began blooming while we celebrated the birth of Jesus – and Jesus is called “the hope of the world.” Like the hellebore, Jesus lived in a hostile world, and yet his life and teachings offer hope. May we catch Christ’s hope for the world, and spread love throughout our life journey.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12.

If this reflection has spoken to you, please share it with others.

4 thoughts on “Of Hellebore and Hope”

  1. Nancy,
    It is always a delight to find your offering in my inbox.
    I think of you so often and I am also not the best at staying in touch. 🙁
    Silence doesn’t diminish my appreciation and love for you though.
    And this time I couldn’t hold silence . . . rather I want to shout a YES! YES! YES! in response to your reflection of Hellebore and Hope.
    Absolutely beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. thank you, Nadine. I’m always glad to hear from you, and I’m Very glad that this reflection spoke to you, my friend.

  2. Nature has a way of teaching us how to live in simplicity and beauty. And your eyes and heart were open to learn from your little hellebore plant. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently with your readers. Your writing never fails to offer warmth and hope.

    1. Dear Laurie, Yes, I agree – it’s amazing what lessons we can find in the smallest parts of the natural world — if we pause and ponder. I”m so glad you wrote, and left me know how much this spoke to you!

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