December 11, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Today is Gaudate Sunday. It takes its name from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon for today's Mass. "Rejoice in the Lord always..." which is again repeated in today's second reading. We light the third, rose colored candle on the Advent wreath signifying that the time to commemorate Jesus' birth is close at hand. It is one of two Sunday's a year when priests and deacons wear rose vestments, and the two times a year when people ask "Father, why are you wearing pink?"  Father inevitably will say, "It's not pink, it's rose!" 

This always confuses me.  Think of it, when you say "rose" what color does that really mean?  If I go to a florist and ask for a rose, the person behind the counter will ask me what color rose do I want.  There are red roses, white roses, yellow roses, orange roses, there are even black roses, and of course there are pink roses. Does anyone ever go to a florist and ask for a rose rose? 

As an artist I am very conscious of color. Pigments can be broken down into very different shades and tints. Rose can refer to very different colors that are somewhere between red and magenta. There are also differnt tints to the color. We have a reddish pink, a salmon color, bluish tint, muted pink, pale rose, mauve, and so on and so forth. 

So why call it rose?  Roses have, since the Middle Ages, been associated with our Blessed Mother.  Part of the miracle at Guadalupe, when the Virgin appeard to Juan Diego in Tepeyac, Mexico in 1531, was that roses bloomed at the spot even though it was not the season for roses. We are celebrating that feast tomorrow. One of the titles of Mary is the Mystical Rose and we know that Our Lady is an important part of our Advent preparation. But still why call it rose and not pink? Is it because "real men don't wear pink?"  That seems rather silly since many men look very good in pink and rose is just as feminine sounding as pink. I guess it will remain a great mystery as to why we say rose rather than pink. 

One of my favorite Advent hymns is Low, How a Rose E're Blooming." It is a sixteenth century hymn that perhaps explains why we say rose instead of pink.  OK, that may take care of it for Gaudate Sunday in Advent, but what about Laetare Sunday in Lent.  Oh well, that's for another time and season.  In the meantime, enjoy the hymn.

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