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While the savage and bloodthirsty butchers of King Herod scoured the countryside around Bethlehem, cutting the throats of little children, Mary fled through the mountains of Judea, clutching her new-born tightly against her trembling heart. Seeing a village, Joseph ran ahead to ask for hospitality or even just a little water to bathe the little one. Alas, the nature of the people of this sad country was such that no one was prepared to offer anything, not water, shelter, not even a kind word.

Now while the poor mother was alone, seated by the side of the road nursing the child, her husband took the donkey to drink from a communal well. What did she hear but shouts getting closer as the ground shook under the hooves of approaching horses.

Herod's soldiers !

Where to hide ? Not the slightest cave nor the smallest palm tree was to be seen.
The only thing close to Mary was a bush where a rose was beginning to bloom.

"Rose, beautiful rose, begged the poor mother, open out all your petals and hide this infant whom they want to kill and his half-dead mother."
The rose, wrinkling the pointed button which served as its nose, replied:
"Get on your way quickly, young woman, because the butchers could brush by me and blemish me. Go see the clove close by. Tell her to shelter you. She has enough flowers to conceal you."

"Clove, pretty clove, begged the fugitive, spread out so that your mass will hide this child condemned to death and his exhausted mother."
The clove shook the little heads of her flowers and refused without even explaining why:
"On your way, you poor wretch. I don't even have time to listen to you. I am too busy putting out blooms all over. Go see the sage plant close by. She has nothing better to do than dispense charity."

"Ah ! Sage, good sage, begged the unhappy woman, spread your leaves to hide this innocent whose life is in such danger and his mother who is half-dead with hunger, fatigue and fear."

The sage plant then blossomed so abundantly that it covered all the earth and its velvety leaves created a canopy under which the God-child and His mother sheltered.
On the road, the butchers passed by without seeing a thing. At the sound of their steps, Mary shivered in terror but the baby, caressed by the leaves, smiled. Then, as suddenly as they had come, the soldiers were gone.

When they had gone, Mary and Jesus came out from their green and flower-bedecked refuge.
" Sage, holy sage, many thanks. I bless you for your good deed which everyone will henceforth remember."

When Joseph found them, he had a hard time keeping up with the donkey which had been restored by a huge plateful of barley which a decent man had given him.
Mary remounted the animal, hugging her saved child to her. And Michael, the Archangel of God, descended from the realms of Heaven to keep them company and show them the shortest way they could journey in easy stages to Egypt.

Since that time the rose has had thorns, the clove ill-smelling flowers, while the sage plant possesses many curative powers:

As the Provencal saying goes:
«Whosoever uses not sage
Remembers not the Virgin.»


Joseph Roumanille (retold by M. Toussaint-Samat) "Légendes et récits du temps de Noël" (Christmas-time Legends and Stories).

© Canadian Heritage Information Network 1995. All Rights Reserved
Date Modified: 1995-12-01
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