First the Camauro and now the Golden Rose

Shouts in the Piazza and Roman Miscellany have posted about Benedict XVI (now gloriously reigning) conferring the Golden Rose as a gift at the Shrine of the Black Madonna, Jasna Gora at Czestochowa.   In the WDTPRS series I have written about the Golden Rose on articles for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday.  Here is an excerpt about the Golden Rose from one of those articles.

What Does the Prayer Really Say? Fourth Sunday of Lent “Laetare” Sunday – Station: Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2001

There is a Latin dictum: repetita iuvant… repeated things help.  That is to say, repetition helps us to learn and remember.  Today we have a “nickname Sunday” (like Gaudete in Advent, Cantate in Eastertide, etc) This nicknaming tradition goes back at least to John of Salisbury (12th c.), and derives from the first word of the Introit chant for the Mass.  Today, there is a relaxation of the stark penitential aspect of Lent, during which season traditionally (and still present in the rubrics) there should be no flowers and decorations and no instrumental music (including organ unless used only to sustain congregational singing).  This Sunday we have a glimpse of the joy that is coming, which is why the first word sung is “Rejoice”!  We have rose colored vestments and instrumental music.

Some ink can be given to rose vestments. This custom is tied to the station churches in Rome.  For centuries in Rome there have been celebrations of Mass during the great seasons of Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas at "station" churches. The station Mass for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem in Rome, where the relics of Cross and Passion are kept.  It was the custom on Laetare for the Pope to bless roses made of gold that were then sent to Catholic kings and queens. Thus Laetare was also called Dominica de rosa…. Sunday of the Rose. Rose vestments developed naturally from this occasion. So, rose came to be used on Laetare Sunday in the Basilica of the Holy Cross when the Pope came for the station Mass. The use of rose (the technical term for the color is rosacea) spread to the rest of the City on this day. As a Roman custom it became part and parcel of the Roman Missal promulgated through the world by Pius V.  The custom is, thanks be to God, coming back into vogue again.

One might ask why roses were given to Catholic rulers and other figures.  The papal letters and documents that came with the rose hint at the meaning attached to it. Innocent III wrote about the significance of the rose and Laetare Sunday: "As Lætare Sunday, the day set apart for the function, represents love after hate, joy after sorrow, and fullness after hunger, so does the rose designate by its color, odor, and taste, love, joy, and satiety respectively."  Innocent also says that the rose is the flower spoken of in Isaiah 11, 1: "there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root".  Centuries later Pope Leo XIII wrote that the beautiful golden flower signifies Christ in His majesty, spoken of by the prophet as "the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys"; the flower’s fragrance shows the sweet odor of Christ which should be diffused through the whole world by His faithful followers.  The thorns and red color symbolize His Passion, harkening to both the real event of the Crucifixion and its foretelling by the prophet Isaiah 43,2: "Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress?"   These themes are in the prayer that was used to bless the golden roses:

"O God! by Whose word and power all things have been created, by Whose will all things are directed, we humbly beseech Thy Majesty, Who art the joy and gladness of all the faithful, that Thou wouldst deign in Thy fatherly love to bless and sanctify this rose, most delightful in odor and appearance, which we this day carry in sign of spiritual joy, in order that the people consecrated by Thee and delivered from the yoke of Babylonian slavery through the favor of Thine only-begotten Son, Who is the glory and exultation of the people of Israel and of that Jerusalem which is our Heavenly mother, may with sincere hearts show forth their joy. Wherefore, O Lord, on this day, when the Church exults in Thy name and manifests her joy by this sign (= the rose), confer upon us through her true and perfect joy and accepting her devotion of today; do Thou remit sin, strengthen faith, increase piety, protect her in Thy mercy, drive away all things adverse to her and make her ways safe and prosperous, so that Thy Church, as the fruit of good works, may unite in giving forth the perfume of the ointment of that flower sprung from the root of Jesse and which is the mystical flower of the field and lily of the valleys, and remain happy without end in eternal glory together with all the saints."

The rose, then, connects not only the penance we do in honor of the Passion (Lent) but also the joy of the resurrection (Easter). It points to Christ who reigns as King, but from a wooden Cross.  Note also the reference to “devotion.”



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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