Saturday, 26 December 2009

Est ist ein Ros' entsprungen

Many people are unaware that the beloved German carol "Est ist ein Ros' entsprungen" exists in two versions - an original Catholic version and an altered Protestant version. Certainly the choir director and conducter at St Paul's Box Hill were unaware of this, printing the Catholic version (with full and accurate translation) in the service order while the Choir actually sang the Protestant version.

The difference comes about because the original carol is a hymn about Mary. There are many different variations - the original had 23 verses in all (see here for the complete history on The Hymns and Carols of Christmas) - but they definitely fall into two camps: the Catholic Carol and the Protestant version.

Here is the Catholic Version as printed in the St Paul's Lessons and Carols program:

1. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
Aus einer Wurzel zart,
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
Von Jesse war die Art,
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
Mitten im kalten Winter
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

2. Das Röslein, das ich meine,
So uns das Blumlein bringt,
Maria ist's, die Reine,
die uns das Blüm'lein bracht';
Aus Gottes ew'gem Rat
Hat sie ein Kindlein g'boren
Bleibend ein reine Magd.

3. Das Blümelein, so kleine,
Das duftet uns so süß,
Mit seinem hellen Scheine
Vertreibt's die Finsternis.
Wahr' Mensch und wahrer Gott,
Hilft uns aus allen Leiden,
Rettet von Sünd' und Tod.


1. A Rose has sprung up, from a tender root. As the old ones sang to us, its lineage was from Jesse. And it has brought forth a flower in the middle of the cold winter, right upon midnight.

2. The Rosebud that I mean, of which Isaiah told, is Mary, the pure, who brough us the Flower. At God's immortal word [strictly, "God's eternal Council"], she has borne a child remaining a pure maid.

3. The Flower, so small, that smells so sweet to us, with its clear light dispels the darkness. True man and true God! He helps us from all trouble, saves us from sin and death.

Note that in this version, the rosebush is the line of Jesse, Mary is the "Rosebud", and Jesus is the "little flower" that she brings forth.

The Choir sang that word for word except the second verse which followed a more Protestant understanding of the identity ofthe "Rose" in the song (which appears to stem from Praetorius 1609 according to Wikipedia):

2. Das Röslein, das ich meine, davon Jesaia sagt,
hat uns gebracht alleine Marie, die reine Magd.
Aus Gottes ew’gem Rat hat sie ein Kind geboren
wohl zu der halben Nacht.


2. The Rosebud that I mean, of which Isaiah told, Mary alone, the pure Maid, has brought us; Out from God's eternal Council, she has borne a child half-way through the night.

So, you see, there is quite a difference. In Praetorius' version, the Rose is always and completely Jesus only, not Mary. My oldest German hymnals don't even have this carol in it - it appears only to have re-entered German Lutheran usage in the middle of the 20th Century. In one way, it just goes to prove that we often don't really understand the words of the carols that are so familiar to us.

Lessons and Carols at St Paul's Lutheran Church Box Hill

Well, we did have an enjoyable Christmas this year. Our children are growing up, so instead of going to the 6:30pm Family Mass at their school's mass centre, we went to 8:30pm Lessons and Carols at their Lutheran Parish of St Paul in Box Hill. I then went to Midnight Mass in my parish, and in the morning we were back at St Paul's so the rest of my family could make their Christmas communion. That also gave us time to have a relaxed Christmas Eve dinner of seafood together, before opening the first gift - a new Nativity set.

Midnight Mass at my parish was a bit of a disappointment. Except for four carols instead of four hymns, it was just spoken mass like any Sunday. No incense, no carols, no chant (not even sung congregational pieces of the liturgy), in fact, come to think of it, I didn't even see a Christmas tree! The young woman who played the piano and led the singing was very good (a great talent, even), but she wasn't given much scope for anything other than the carols. It was all over in 45 minutes.

Lessons and Carols at St Paul's, however, was a great treat. The choir and organist there are top notch, and their selection was brilliant. Here is the program:

Processional (Choir): Wexford Carol / "Good People all, this Christmas time" (arr. by John Rutter)

(Choir and Congregation) Once in Royal David's City (arr. P. Ledger)

(Congregation) Joy to the World

(Choir) Remember Christians all (Thomas Ravencroft)

(Choir) Est ist ein Ros' entsprungen (auf Deutsch - see my separate entry above about this text)

(Congregation) Of the Father's Love Begotten (sung alternately between Men and Women)

(Choir and Congregation) O Little Town of Bethlehem (arr. Vaughan Williams, Philip Ledger, Thomas Armstrong)

(Choir) Ave Maria (Franz Biebel) - "Lutheranised" - see my other blog on this.

(Congregation) Away in a manger (arr. David Willcocks)

(Choir) Starry Night (words by Anne Willcocks, music by David Willcocks) - this was a real treat, containing a surprisingly Catholic Mariology for a Lutheran service (see here for full words and music)

(Congregation) Silent Night

(Congregation) The First Nowell

(Choir) Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child (an unusual but effective setting by Kenneth Leighton)

(Choir) From heaven above to earth I come (one verse based upon an organ prelude by J.S. Bach)

And of course:

Recessional (Congregation) Hark the Herald Angels sing

My daughters enjoyed this service immensely (as did the rest of us), singing happily and staying awake for the whole service - which ended around 10pm.

For anyone brought up in the Protestant traditions, singing and music is soooo essential to the Christmas celebration. If only we Catholics could learn from this...

Monday, 21 December 2009

A great Christmas Carol site

While looking for the history of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", I found this site, which is quite terrific in many ways:

The O Antiphons

I just came across Fr Z.'s little site on the "O Antiphons".

We have been singing these as a family devotion during the lighting of the Advent wreath this year in John Mason Neale's beloved versification. Problem is the vast array of "modernisations" of Neale's hymn. It is hard to find any agreement among the modernisers, so we are using his traditional text.

But then it is hard to find a hymnal that gives all seven verses. Perhaps the reason is that Neale's original version - if this website is anything to go by (and the reproduction of the various originl editoins seems to indicate that it is) included only five of the seven antiphons.

Here are Neale's original verses:
1. Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel
And loose Thy captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear;
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

2. O Rod of Jesse’s stem, arise,
And free us from our enemies,
And set us loose from Satan's chains,
And from the pit with all its pains!
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

3. Thou, the true East, draw nigh, draw nigh,
To give us comfort from on high!
And drive away the shades of night,
And pierce the clouds, and bring us light!
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

4. Key of the House of David, come!
Reopen Thou our heavenly home!
Make safe the way that we must go,
And close the path that leads below.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

5. Ruler and Lord, draw nigh, draw nigh!
Who to Thy flock in Sinai
Didst give, of ancient times, Thy Law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!