Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

A Rose by any other Name

Sub rosa

Did you ever hear the term sub rosa or “under the rose”?  Beginning in the sixteenth century, the rose was occasionally placed over the confessional to symbolize the sacramental seal of silence.[1]

The origin of this tradition is very mysterious.  Some attribute it to the myth of Cupid bribing Harpocrates (the god of secrecy and silence) with a rose in order to keep amorous activities of Venus (goddess of sensuality and love) a secret.[2] As we entered into the twentieth century, a rose on a dining room table meant that everything said around the table is to remain in the room.

I dare someone to bring a rose to their confessor the next time they go just to see (and for us, hear) the reaction.  I can think of four other ways the Rose has entered into our Catholic traditions, can you?


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 304

[2] Homer, The Illiad (Trans by W H D Rouse) (nd) Bk xxiii.

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