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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

16 August 2005

The Legend of the Dogwood

Dogwood BlossomsQ: Was the cross Jesus was hung on made from a dogwood tree? I had never heard of this before but, the women I work with say it was. Could you please help?

A: This is a folk tale. The dogwood is not native to Palestine. Some creative mind, looking at the flowers of the dogwood, decided to use it as a reminder of Christ’s crucifixion. I include one version of the story for those interested.

There is a legend that at the time of the crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber of the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this, and in his gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering said to it:

“Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross, two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns. And all who see it will remember.”

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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