The Advent Hymn, Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming was originally a German Catholic hymn titled Gebetbuchlein des Frater Conradus (Say that 3 times fast). The manuscript containing the song was found in St. Alban’s Carthusian monastery in Trier, Germany, so its original authorship is anonymous. The song was focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is compared to the rose mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:1 – “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” The story is told that one Christmas Eve, a monk found a rose blooming in the woods. He placed the rose in a vase and placed it before the altar of Mary. Whether that is true or not, the song was published somewhere around 1582. This first version had 19 verses.
By 1609, Protestants had adopted the song and changed its focus from Mary to Jesus citing Isaiah 11:1 – “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot, yes, a new branch bearing fruit from the old root.” Not to be outdone by the Catholics, the 1599 Cologne, Germany Protestant version of the song was published with 23 verses in Alte Katholische Geistliche Kirchengesang, which is a hymnal of sorts. I can just see the preacher now saying, “Ok, we’re going to sing all 23 verses unless someone makes a decision before the second verse.”
The version most known today was given a new tune by Michael Praetorius in 1609. Most collections today ironically contain only 2-3 verses.
Click here to hear a version of Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming by Reawaken Hymns
*Image courtesy of Joana Abreu