Have you heard this one before? It’s not like “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” or “Jingle Bells”, with lyrics that are quick to pick up. In fact, it was originally in German!
“Es Ist ein Ros entsprungen” – that’s “A Rose has Sprung up” in English – was first found in print in 1599 in the Speyer Hymnal. It’s also been called “A Spotless Rose”, “Behold a Rose of Judah”, and “Look, how a Rose e’er Blooming.” This carol began as just two verses, but has been published with up to five in English, all alluding to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:13-14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be Emmanuel”, which is also mentioned to have been fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew by the birth of Christ.
The Rose is a classic German symbol for the Blessed Mother, and the hymn connects the Incarnation to the prophecy in Isaiah, calling Jesus the rose and tracing the lineage through the Tree of Jesse. Some think that the original hymn was a reference to Mary, who we call “Mystical Rose” in the Litany of Loreto, and was changed to Jesus as it became popular in Protestant communities.
No matter which way you look at the lyrics, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” commends Mary’s trust in God and marvels at the wonder of Christ’s birth. How humble a setting: midnight, during a census that brought His family to Bethlehem, in a stable. And yet it changed the whole world and “dispels with glorious splendor / the darkness everywhere.”
What a beautiful reminder of God coming to “lighten our load” of sin and death! May we always remember to thank Our Lord for His gift – and thank His Mother, Mystical Rose, for believing in God’s plan and raising the Son of God.
Now, listen to the Willows Academy choir sing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”: