Danish: En rose så jeg skyde
German: Es ist in Ros entsprungen
Norwegian: Den hev ei rose sprunge
Text: Anonymous, 14th century Tune: Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
1. Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming From tender stem hath sprung! Of Jesse's lineage coming As men of old have sung. It came, a flower bright, Amid the cold of winter When half-gone was the night.
2. Isaiah 'twas foretold it, The Rose I have in mind: With Mary we behold it, The virgin mother kind. To show God's love aright She bore to men a Savior When half-gone was the night.
3. This Flower, whose fragrance tender With sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor The darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, From sin and death He saves us And lightens every load. Tr. Theodore Baker
Trinity Carol Roll 1415
Benjamin Britten, 1943. A Ceremony of Carols
Text: Anonymous Tune: Anonymous
1. There is no rose of such vertú As is the rose that bare Jesu. Alleluia, Alleluia, For in this rose conteinèd was Heaven and earth in litel space, Res miranda, Res miranda. 2. By that rose we may well see There be one God in persons three, Pares forma, pares forma. The aungels sungen the shepherds to: Gloria in excelsis, gloria in excelsis Deo! Gaudeamus, gaudeamus. 3. Leave we all this werldly mirth, and follow we this joyful birth. Transeamus, Transeamus, Transeamus. Alleluia, Res miranda, Pares forma, Gaudeamus, Transeamus.
MEDITATION The Rose again. The rose was in most medieval texts, Mary, but was easily changed to Jesus by the Reformers. The Madonna paintings I have included here could be meditations on Mary and Jesus as beautiful roses.
I was criticized for my LBW translation of this text because I changed it from Lo! How a Rose is Blooming to Lo! How a Rose is growing. I did have the bloom in the second line, but my critics thought it unfortunate. I grew up with the Winkworth translation in the Concordia—“Behold! A Branch is Growing.” That may have been the source of my perfidy. But that is not my point.
We worked on these in the early 1970s. We had just lived through the protests of the late 60s. The committee, excepting me, was composed of gentlemen old enough to be my father. They wanted to update the hymns so young people could sing them without laughing.
It turned out the Baby Boomers generally didn’t want to sing anything like the old chorales. The contemporary worship movement broke out in opposition to the LBW in 1978 and few if any old chorales seemed worthwhile at the time.
It has been interesting to watch what has happened with these classics in the past few years. They have remained, now often with a beat and jazz harmonies. Christmas classics remain popular the way our traditions for food do. Because we sing the carols so many times in the season they are among the few we know by heart even with the archaic language. We can still sing "Silent Night" and many other carols by heart.
While these two pieces may not be quite in the memory, they are almost obligatory for Christmas carol sings. Most congregations can manage the hymn; choirs perform the Britten setting of "There is a no rose of such vertú" from the Ceremony of Carols. They will even enjoy the Middle English Britten used. Having a couple of languages in a carol is normal given their origin in the Middle Ages where Latin persisted. We call carols with two languages macaronic. In dulci Jubilo! No updating. Go figure.
First of all, if it is in the memory, keep it. Christmas carols are not simply messages; they are language shaped so we can remember the words and then get the meaning from them. If Christmas was only a message, we could forget all the carols, sermons, rituals, good food and drink, everything and just send a telegram: God’s Son was born today in Bethlehem. Stay tuned for further developments.
No, we tell the story over in as many ways as we can, lingering on favorite images, and stories. Some will appeal to one person, some to another, etc. Augustine the great theologian of the Early Church made an argument in his Christian Doctrine for using as many different signs—metaphors or similes—as possible when speaking of the faith. The listener will make of them what he or she is inspired to do by the Holy Spirit.
Communication is not pouring one’s words into the ears of another and expecting the hearer gets exactly what we intended. We have no idea what is happening to our words as they enter the minds of our hearers. There is many a slip between cup and lip and the good communicator knows that. What the listener receives is always a mystery. In our celebrations and proclamations we should practice sending out as many signs of the glorious gift we have received in the birth of this baby in Bethlehem. Who can exhaust it? Why should we mess with people’s memories for the sake of getting the meaning across in clumsy and unattractive language? Then it will be forgotten. The one thing about the rose, it is beautiful. And so are these paintings of Mary and her son.
Lo! How a rose is blooming! Let it bloom in your homes and in your hearts. Let its fragrance fill them with joy and beauty. Enjoy its appearance and think how it points to this great miracle: The incarnation of our God! Here among us!
These two texts emerge from the Middle Ages. The first was a two stanza hymn set to a tune by Michael Praetorius, one of the first great Lutheran composers. The oldest son of a Lutheran pastor, he became the most respected musicologist of his day, His compositions and writings were highly valued. A 19th century German scholar Fredrick Layriz added several stanzas. The third here is his.
The second text is from a Scroll of Carols found in England from the 15th century. It was the first manuscript showing how early polyphonic music was present in England. Benjamin Britten set them into a concert piece known as the Ceremony of Carols. He did so while on a ship traveling home from the US to Britain during WWII in 1942. It has become a concert staple ever since.
Renée Fleming and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir/Chills all the way down https://youtu.be/fUGTzpntLs8
Gesualdo Six, in Ely Cathedral https://youtu.be/OAIro_A1CYw
Danish Vocal Line https://youtu.be/CkrNQAhGUsQ
Oslo Gospel Choir with Sigvart Dagsland
Dale Warland Singers https://youtu.be/O_iQqVQZey0
Big Band sound https://youtu.be/i_eQfskog0g
THERE IS NO ROSE
Augustana Choir https://youtu.be/0-0rgTk6YUU
The Choral Society of Durham https://youtu.be/_y2eqJae5KA