One night about eight years ago I was watching “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,” one of the Sherlock Holmes mystery shows from the 1980s that starred the compelling actor Jeremy Brett, which you used to be able to watch for free on YouTube. To my surprise, right in the middle of investigating a case in a country house drawing room, the Sherlock Holmes character became enthralled by a rose. He uncharacteristically began for a few minutes to talk about religion (of all things!) and to ponder the generosity of Providence. Unexpected, to say the least!
In this scene from the book, Sherlock Holmes, as written by Arthur Conan Doyle, showed a fine appreciation of how the beauty and fragrance of flowers gives us a clue that God’s care for us goes beyond merely providing for our necessities.
Holmes’s attention was caught by the sight of a red rose in a vase. He picked the rose up, focused his intense gaze on it, and exclaimed in a reverent tone, “‘What a lovely thing a rose is.’”
He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance.
“But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”
This YouTube clip shows the scene from the show, which omits some of the words I quoted above from the book.
That passage struck me of course. In a similar way, when I look at flowers, I am enthralled by their beauty so much that I glimpse God’s beauty. It is a kind of shorthand for me to say it this way, that when I look at a rose I always feel that I am looking into the face of God.