The plant so frequently mentioned in the Old Testament under the name of lily, as an emblem of purity and peace, was the lotus lily of Egypt and India. It occupies a conspicuous place among the ornaments of the Temple furniture. The brim of the molten sea was wrought with flowers of the lotus; the chapiters on the tops of the pillars at the porch, and the tops of the pillars themselves, were adorned with the same plant. Sir Robert Ker Porter, describing a piece of sculpture which he found at Persepolis, says
Almost every one in this procession holds in his hand a figure like the lotus. This flower was full of meaning among the ancients and occurs all over the East. Egypt, Persia, Palestine, and India present it everywhere over their architectures in the hands and on the heads of their sculptured figures, whether in statue or in bas-relief. We also find it in the sacred vestments and architecture of the tabernacle and Temple of the Israelites.
The lily which is mentioned by our Savior, as an image of peculiar beauty and glory, when comparing the works of nature with the decorations of art, was a different dower probably a species of lilium. This is also represented in all pictures of the salutation of Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, and, in fact, has been held in mysterious veneration by people of all nations and times. It is the symbol of divinity, of purity, and abundance, and of a love most complete in perfection, charity, and benediction; as in Holy Scripture, that mirror of purity, Susanna is defined Susa, which signified the lily flower, the chief city of the Persians, bearing that name for excellency.
Hence, the lily's three leaves in the arms of France meaneth Piety, Justice, and Charity." so far, the general impression of a peculiar regard to this beautiful and fragrant Sower; but the early Persians attached to it a peculiar sanctity. We must not, however, forget the difference between the lotus of the Old Testament and the lily of the New. The former is a Masonic plant; the latter is scarcely referred to. Nevertheless, through the ignorance of the early translators as to sacred plants, the lotus is constantly used for the lily; and hence the same error has crept into the Masonic instructions.