Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Rose Unpetalled

I ordered an album of "Sacred Songs of Ireland" the other day, mostly for the preview I heard on iTunes of its rendition of "Jesus my Lord, my God, my All". (Sometimes our church does that one during Communion; so beautiful.) It arrived and I enjoyed that song, but many of the others were lost on me because the lyrics were hard to follow. Today I began browsing the liner notes and read this song:

Jesus, to aid Thy feeble powers,
I see Thy mother’s arms outspread,
As thou on this sad earth of ours
Dost set Thy first, Thy faltering tread;
See, in thy path I cast away
A rose in all its beauty dressed,
That on its petals’ disarray
Thy feet, so light, may softly rest.

Dear Infant Christ, this fallen rose
An image of that heart should be
Which makes, as every instant flows,
Its whole burnt-sacrifice to Thee.
Upon thy altars, Lord, there gleams
Full many a flower whose grand display
Charms Thee; but I have other dreams--
Bloomless, to cast myself away.

For love of Loveliness supreme,
Dying, to cast myself away
Were bright fulfillment of my dream;
I’d prove my love no easier way;
Life, here below, forgotten still,
A rose before Thy path outspread
At Nazareth, or Calvary’s hill
Relieve Thy last, Thy labouring tread.

The last line really, really gets to me. The name of the song is "A Rose Unpetalled", and when I looked more closely at the credits I saw that the lyrics are a poem by St. Therese of Lisieux! It does sound like her. Then I looked again and saw that the translator was none other than Msgr. Ronald Knox. The sentiments of St. Therese in the poetry of Ronald Knox-- no wonder I loved it so much. (There are their pictures below. Two fan points for whoever can guess which is which.) Has anyone else heard this song? Am I the last to be aware of it?

St. Faustina, in moments of highest spiritual ecstasy, often wrote of casting herself before the Lord "like a tiny, unknown flower"-- I bet she read St. Therese.

Something I love about Catholic spirituality, which was almost completely lacking in the evangelical Protestantism I came from, is the focus on Jesus' sufferings and the desire to accompany Him in meditation. Now I love that we can pray the Sorrowful Mysteries, and have a crucifix above the altar, and do the Stations of the Cross, and watch with our Lord on Holy Thursday night like his disciples didn't-- but all this is a whole 'nother post.

1 comment:

Athanasius contra mundum said...

It is beautiful and moving to join the Lord in His sufferings through meditation. Like at Mass right before the transubstantiation, we pray "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord". I can feel like we're there with Jesus as he's riding that colt down the aisle to be crucified and offer that sacrificed Body and Blood to us on the altar.