Herself a rose

Herself a rose, who bore the Rose
     She bore the Rose and felt its thorn.
     All Loveliness new-born
Took on her bosom its repose,
          And slept and woke there night and morn.

Lily herself, she bore the one
     Fair Lily ; sweeter, whiter, far
     Than she or others are :
The Sun of Righteousness her Son,
          She was His morning star.

She gracious, He essential Grace,
     He was the Fountain, she the rill :
     Her goodness to fulfil
And gladness, with proportioned pace
          He led her steps thro’ good and ill.

Christ’s mirror she of grace and love,
     Of beauty and of life and death :
     By hope and love and faith
Transfigured to His Likeness, ‘Dove,
          Spouse, Sister, Mother,’ Jesus saith.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, circa 1877

5 Replies to “Herself a rose”

  1. I’m not exactly sure, Doug. I’ll take a look in Lampe when I get home, and let you know where/when it shows up in Patristic Greek, at least, though some niggling memory brings to mind that it may first have appeared extensively in Syriac, with St Ephrem. The rose was much more widespread and common itself, even aside from literary usage, in the Armenian, Syrian and Persian cultures than it was in the Graeco-Roman culture. I even recall someone positing that the rose originated in Armenia, whose pre-Christian love-goddess was Varda (or something like those vowels), “Rose.”

  2. Well, there’s nothing under τριανταφυλλος, so I guess that word is more modern than I thought. (It comes from the idea that roses have 30 petals, a contraction of τριακοντα-φυλλος, I suppose.) Unfortunately ροδον doesn’t have its own entry in Lampe, either, so that was a dead end. The unfortunate occurence of the homonym Ροδος renders a search of TLG for ροδ- uselessly successful, unfortunately.

    If you eventually do find an answer, please let me know, too. It’s a very interesting hunt. I’m partial to that imagery.

  3. This is what The International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton says on the subject.

    Since antiquity the rose was considered a symbol of mystery, for early Christians the rose is a visual expression for paradise (Catacombs of Callixtus, 3rd century) but also for martyrdom (Cyprian, Ep. 10). The Marian interpretation of this symbol dates to the 5th century (Sedulius Caelius). He is probably the first to call Mary a “rose among thorns” (Carmen paschale II, 28-31). Theophanes Graptos (Monk and metropolite of Nikaia, +845) uses the same symbolism to express Mary’s purity and the fragrance of her grace (Oktoechos, Friday of the sixth week)

    Frequent Marian references to rose and rosebush were made in medieval times with special reference to Isaiah 11,1 (“…a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse / and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”). This typology is very old. We find it in Tertullian (Adv. Judaeos, 9) and Ambrosius (Exp. Gr. Luc. II, 24). For these authors the root is a reference to the davidic genealogy, the sprout (virga, bush) is Mary, and Christ is the flower (rose).

    Medieval authors had a second source for their use of mystical rose: the verse from Sir. 24, 14 (“like a palm tree in Engedi, like a rosebush in Jericho”) which makes reference to God graced fertility and growth, again a reference to the mysterious generation of Christ from the womb of Mary.

    It is based on these two traditions that the expression rosa mystica was coined by the author of the Litanies of Loreto, and subsequently used in hymns (“Es ist ein Ros…”) and art (center of the labyrinth of Chartres).



  4. Thanks, for that very helpful info. One of the hymnic expressions of it that I like comes from “Crown him with many crowns” – a verse omitted or altered in some Protestant hymnals

    Fruit of the mystic Rose,
    as of that Rose the Stem,
    the Root, whence mercy ever flows,
    the Babe of Bethlehem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *