First Sunday in Advent

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 floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

This advent hymn was first printed in 1582 in Gebetbuchlein des Frater Conradus in Trier, Germany as “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.” It had 19 verses. In 1599 the words and music appeared with 23 verses in the Alte Katholische Geistliche Kirchengesäng, Cologne. When looking up history online for this hymn I found the following story on the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website: “The hymn is believed to have originated in Trier, and one source stated that on one Christmas Eve, a monk in Trier found a blooming rose while walking in the woods. He placed the rose in a vase, and placed it before the alter to the Virgin Mary. Some sources indicate the hymn might date back into the 14th Century.”

The words to this song are based on Song of Solomon 2:1: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” Originally embraced by the Catholic Church who said it focused on the Virgin Mary, years later the Protestant Church started using it stating that it was about Jesus. The original German has been translated many times, but the best known is by Theodore Baker (1851-1934).

The tune we use today first appears in the Speyer Hymnal which was printed in Cologne in 1599 and is a harmonization of the original tune by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). Johannes Brahms used the melody as the basis for Es ist ein Ross’ Entsprungen (Op. 122, no.8) . JoBC