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Redoute, Rosa IndicaHallo again to all.

A number of our most-loved Christmas carols begin with monks. One monk, sometimes identified as the Blessed Henry Suso, claimed to have seen angels dancing and singing and, on invitation, sensibly joined in with them. Afterwards, to mark the occasion, he penned the haunting In Dulci Jubilo*.

Another monk, on a walk in Trier on Christmas eve, came across an unlikely rose blossom. He sensibly plucked it and placed it before the altar, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He then took up his quill and wrote the simple yet moving Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming). That text, sung to the classic tune of Michael Praetorius, for us never tires, no matter how many times its appearance in service leaflets during Christmastide.

We can grow a bit weary the second or third time of singing It Came Upon a Midnight Clear or Angels We Have Heard on High, but that doesn't hold for Es ist ein Ros. It is, as someone once described, like the scent of a rose. Unlike lilies, violets, and lilacs, one can sniff a rose deeply. And again. And again. (Try it, when you're next near a scented rose.) It never cloys and somehow remains pure, true, clear, and ever new.

As we idly brooded on the Trier monk and his mystical rose, we remembered the lines of an American poet:

If I could begin again,
Time is something I would measure
In the generations of roses, evolving across
Gulfs we have no record of,
Eons without archives,
Eras without witnesses,
Without surviving portraits,

Roses flowering past the cliffs
Of thirty million years
Without intent,
In galaxies of tints,
In repetitious, variegated depths
Above the sinkholes of our wars,
Our vanishing points,
With hints
Portrayed in velvet;
If I could begin again,
I would measure time in the generations of
Roses, and not the succession
Of rulers of men

Gjertrud Schnackenberg, from 'A Monument in Utopia' in Supernatural Love

A blessed and joyful Christmas, dear friends. Love, light, grace, and peace to each of you as you celebrate the nativity of our Saviour. Rejoice!

And on Christmas Day, begin again. As from a rose.

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Last updated: 13 December 2007 (Fourth Sunday in Advent)


* A common translation of the first verse:

In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

The tune most commonly used with In Dulci Jubilo was first found in a manuscript, circa 1400, in Leipzig University Library (Codex 1305). In 1570 the tune was described as 'very ancient'. It's also sung with the text 'Good Christian Men, Rejoice'.

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