A Christmas Rose
by Rob Sproule
Warning: This Is Not a Gardening Article”¯
A Rose has sprung from a tender root,
From Jesus, as those of old have sung,
And it bore a flower,
In the middle of a cold winter.
– translated from”¯”Es ist ein Ros entsprugen”, a 15th century poem, author unknown
I love telling stories. With a long history of writing and an MA in English with a creative writing focus, that’s where I come from.
With my gardening article, I try to unearth the narratives beneath the surface of my topic. But sometimes, a good story just needs to be told; that’s what I’m doing today.
So put your shovel and your insecticidal soap away. We’re not planting or killing anything today. But if you’re still with me, sit back, relax, and have a Merry Christmas.
The Christmas Rose
The 3 wise men were not poor men. The “magi” (which means they were members of a caste of Zoroastrian priests often thought to have supernatural powers) came from the East to bring Jesus expensive gifts.
Whether priests or kings, the gifts that the 3 men brought would have been fortunes to Mary and Joseph. According to some legends, the angel leading the magi also visited shepherds along the way and spread the good news. They gathered what gifts they could afford, from honey to snow-white doves, and ventured west to meet their new king.
Madelon was a poor shepherdess, tending her family flock, when the angel appeared. Madelon’s heart filled with faith, but then sank as she saw her fellow shepherds gathering gifts together. She was poor and had nothing to give, but she followed the angel west nonetheless.
Reaching Bethlehem, Madelon hid behind a house and watched the shepherds entering the stable to lay their gifts before Jesus. She wanted more than anything to see her king. When she heard that the shepherds were saying that it would be a sin to enter that holy place without a gift, she rushed to the hillside to look for anything that she could gather to lay before him.
Finding nothing, Madelon wept. The angel’s news had filled her young heart with joy, but being too poor to bring a gift overwhelmed her with shame. How could she pay homage empty handed?
As she cried, her tears fell on the snowy ground around her. The angel that she had followed went to her, came down from on high to stand before her, and touched the ground where she wept. A lush bush of beautiful winter roses sprang up in front of Madelon. The snow white and star-shaped flowers were worthy of a king.
The angel said to Madelon, “No gold, no frankincense, no myrrh, is as precious, or as fitting a gift for the Prince of Peace as these pure blooms that are born from the pure tears of love, faith and devotion.”
Overjoyed, Madelon gathered the flowers and entered the stable. Jesus, feeling the faith in her heart, blessed the flowers with the ability to bloom in the depths of winter.
I love this story for its universal simplicity. How much you spend didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. The contents of your heart matter.
The hardiness of the Christmas Rose is no legend. Helleborus niger, or Black Hellebore, is an evergreen perennial, hailing from Central Asia, that found its way to Europe. In the Middle Ages, people strewed their homes with it when it bloomed at the end of December to ward off dark spirits of winter. They’re a popular plant across Europe today, although their power of blooming during the harsh winter don’t extend as far north as Alberta.