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Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming        

1    Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
    from tender stem hath sprung!
    Of Jesse's lineage coming
    as seers of old have sung,
    it came, a flow'r so bright,
    amid the cold of winter,
    when half-spent was the night.

2    Isaiah had 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 us a Savior,
    when half-spent was the night.

3    This flow'r, 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 ev'ry load.

4    O Savior, child of Mary,
    who felt our human woe;
    O Savior, king of glory,
    who dost our weakness know:
    bring us at length, we pray,
    to the bright courts of heaven
    and into endless day.

Text: German carol, 15th cent.; tr. Theodore Baker, 1851-1934, sts. 1-2; Harriet R. 

The hymn evokes the symbolic use of the rose to describe Mary sprouting from the Tree of Jesse as the Mother of God (altarpiece, St. Lambrecht's Abbey.) (Creative Commons license.)
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
(Isaiah 11:1)
 
For some reason, I have enjoyed this Advent song in the Lutheran church since I was a child. After which, I enjoyed it even more, trying to sing all four parts of the harmony. The last line of each verse strikes me as especially powerful and hopeful, moving from a minor chord to a major chord. Also, for some reason, the alto harmonies have always been the hardest for me to find in most music: an untrained ear; a more subtle and not so emphatic tune; nuances that take too much effort to discover. Maybe equivalencies to my life’s journey at times.
In research, I learned the hymn is mainly unattributed, first appearing in print about the 1580’s with two verses and others being added variably. To Catholic adherents, the focus of the hymn might be the Virgin Mary, especially symbolized as the rose. To Protestants, Christ the Savior might be the stronger interpretation as the rose.
The hymn, for me, is a great witness to the tenets of Christianity: based in holy scripture; witnessing to the divinity and humanity of Christ; the promise of a Savior. I appreciate the reflectiveness and solemnity of this hymn as appropriate for the season of Advent… though not one you’ll likely hear during the season at the shopping mall.


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