“I am waiting like the desert for Your rain; I am bracing like the shoreline…
Many years ago, when my husband and I were in Germany, we were given a tour of a local vineyard by a very eager and chatty winemaker. He was excited to give us a thorough wine education, including information on soil quality, when to plant and how to prune, determining the time to harvest, and more.
He also told us about the rose bushes, planted at the head of every row of vines. Wine and vineyards are mentioned throughout Sacred Scripture, most often as symbols of joy, abundance, and the richness of God’s overflowing love. In the Song of Songs we read: “Your love is more delightful than wine; delicate is the fragrance of Your perfume … We shall praise your love above wine; how right it is to love you” (Song of Songs 1:2,4). and “We will spend the night in the villages, and in the morning we will go to the vineyards. We will see if the vines are budding, if their blossoms are opening, if the pomegranate trees are in flower. Then I shall give you the gift of my love” (Song of Songs 7:13). Jesus Himself is the keeper of our vines and winemaker of our garden hearts. It is He who plants our vineyard—through His ever-abounding graces—and it is He who fertilizes the soil with His own precious Blood.
Our task is to reap a full harvest for Him, to open our hearts to His everlasting love so the fruit He plants within us can ripen to fulfillment. We must always be on our guard for those “little foxes”—sin, vice, temptation—who seek to ruin our harvest of bountiful fruits. “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that make havoc in the vineyard” (Song 2:15). And that’s where the rose bushes come into our story.
The reason roses are planted at the head of each row of vines is because—as the eager German winemaker explained to my husband and I—roses and grapevines thrive in the same type of soil and are prone to the same diseases, such as powdery mildew and downy mildew. However, the roses will take on the mildew before the grapevines, showing signs of disease before the harvest is threatened. As soon as a vinedresser detects signs of mildew on the fragrant rose petals, he knows to take precautions against these “little foxes” that are threatening to ruin the vineyard. This makes me think of our Blessed Mother, the Mystical Rose of God. Roses have long been associated with our Lady, and when I think about her role in cultivating our relationship with her beloved Son, the meaning of rosebushes planted in vineyards takes on an entirely new light.
It is our Lady who helps protect us from the little foxes—the mildew of sin and seeking things other than her Son. By her example of love, purity and humility, by her complete submission to Divine Will, and through her constant intercession, she helps guide our spiritual path. She also takes our “mildew” into her Immaculate Heart, so as to transform our hearts in order to make them worthy of loving her Son with the fullness of our being. She willingly suffered alongside her Son at the Crucifixion—an emotional sword piercing her heart—in order to bring us to the foot of the Cross where we can receive the full love and redemption Jesus so longs to shower upon us.
Cultivating our garden hearts through the protection and intercession of our Lady is one of the most powerful things we can do to progress our spiritual life, all with a goal toward union with her Son. As St. Louis de Montfort wrote:
“Mary puts herself around [her true children], and accompanies them ‘like an army in battle array’ (Song of Songs 6:3). Shall a man who has an army of a hundred thousand soldiers around him fear his enemies? A faithful servant of Mary, surrounded by her protection, has still less to fear.”
Copyright 2023 – Jenny duBay