A Canticle for Advent: Let Us Be Transformed

roseinside

There is no rose of such virtue
As is the Rose that bore Jesu:
Alleluia.
For in this rose was contained
Heaven and earth in a small space.
Wondrous thing. Res miranda.
By that rose we may well see
There is one God in persons three.
Equally formed. Pares forma.
The angels sang; the shepherds, too:
Glory to God in the highest!
Let us rejoice. Gaudeamus.
Leave we all these worldly cares
And follow we this joyful birth.
Let us be transformed. Transeamus.
~Benjamin Britten “There is no rose” from “Ceremony of the Carols”1943

…thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1: 76-79 (Zechariah’s Song)

Although there are few references to roses in the Bible,  the symbolism of the depths of beauty and tenderness of the rose is found everywhere from Dante’s Paradisio, to elaborate ancient cathedral Rose Windows with Christ or Virgin Mary at the center.  It represents the miracle of heaven and earth bound together in the person of Christ in the Trinity.   Through His tender mercy, like Zechariah given back his voice,we become transformed by the coming of Christ.   We prepare to go before the Face of the Lord,  in His unfolding universe, unfurling like the center of a rose.

These daily Advent reflections are each devoted to one Christmas carol (or canticle) to prepare us for God dwelling among us– then, now and forever more.

Transformation

snowy_hill1

So it is going to be a white Christmas here.   For many, this is no big deal and nothing special.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is very rare to have a white Christmas: in my 54 years, I can recall exactly 4. The most dramatic was in 1996 when we had snow drifts over 10 feet high and were snow bound for several days.  We had to tunnel into our barns to feed the animals and the drama soon became much hard work and effort.

So a few inches sounds just right. It is plenty enough.

It isn’t Bing Crosby romanticism about White Christmases I’m seeking.  It is the transformation implicit in a new snowfall.   All appears new under a blanket of snow.  The ordinary appears extraordinary and we see with different eyes.  This is what Christmas morning is about and a little visual aid doesn’t hurt.

I know it didn’t snow that first Christmas morning in Bethlehem.  I know it wasn’t even winter when Jesus was born.  I know none of that really matters in this commercial craziness we call “Christmas” but which bears so little resemblance to what really happened at that moment when God became man.

The carol “There is No Rose” reprinted below profoundly illustrates with a few Latin words:

“Allelulia!
A wondrous thing has happened!
God and man become equally formed, made as one.
Let us rejoice!
Let us be transformed as a result!”

Today is our day for renewal–clean, extraordinary, transforming.

We’re allowed to peer into the face of God…

There Is No Rose
by Benjamin Britten from “The Ceremony of Carols”

Listen to it here

There is no rose of such virtue
As is the Rose that bore Jesu:
Alleluia.
For in this rose was contained
Heaven and earth in a small space.
Wondrous thing. Res miranda.
By that rose we may well see
There is one God in persons three.
Equally formed. Pares forma.
The angels sang; the shepherds, too:
Glory to God in the highest!
Let us rejoice. Gaudeamus.
Leave we all these worldly cares
And follow we this joyful birth.
Let us be transformed. Transeamus.