This is a story shared in The Pilgrim of Our Lady of Martyrs, a book published many years ago.
Herod’s soldiers were seeking the Infant Jesus, to put Him to death, when Mary and Joseph fled into the mountains, Mary pressing her Son to her heart. Suddenly Mary hears behind her the savage soldiers who are seeking her. Where shall she hide, and how shall she preserve her Child from death ? In her distress, she implores everything around her.
Perceiving a rose-bush in full bloom, she says: “Rose, lovely Rose, expand still more—open thy fragrant leaves and conceal my poor Infant Whom they seek to kill.”
“Pass on,” the Rose replies; ” for the soldiers, in seeking thy Child, may mar my beauty, crush my petals, and—who knows, perhaps strip off all my leaves. See the the Pink yonder? Ask her to shelter you; may be she will do it.”
The Virgin runs to this flower, her dear Son in her arms. “Pink, beautiful Pink,” she exclaims; “expand, I beg of thee ; increase, as much as possible, thy fragrant petals and shield my Son, Whose life cruel soldiers are seeking.”
“Pass on,” answered the Pink; “have I time to listen to thee, when I must bloom and eclipse by my splendor all the flowers of the valley ? But there is a stock-gilly; perhaps it will save thy Child.”
Mary reached it, breathless and despairing. “Charming Gilly-flower, take pity on me; they want to kill my Child. I entreat thee to spread out thy branches, extend thy blossoms, increase thy shade and protect my Child. Listen! Dost thou not hear the tramp of the soldiers who are coming ?”
“Pass on,” said the Gilly-flower; ” don’t you know I entertain the bees at dinner, that I receive the confidential love-tales of the butterflies? Withdraw, withdraw with your Child! Farther down, on this rock, I see a bush of sage, the emblem of poverty. Ask an asylum of her—she may possibly take pity on thee.”
The Virgin advances, pressing her divine Son to her breast: “Sage, good little Sage, spread out thy leaves and hide my Son, Whom Herod’s soldiers wish to kill.”
And the sage spread out, increasing her spicy leaves to such an extent that Mother and Child were concealed from every eye.
The soldiers are passing—they are gone, and the little sage trembles in every leaf. Then Mary comes forth from her fragrant retreat, saying: ” Good Sage, dear little Sage, flower of the poor, I bless thee, because thou hast saved my Child.”
And this blessing endowed the beneficent sage with the virtue she has so profusely bestowed on the sick, for nearly two thousand years.
Doubtless it is in memory of this legend that on the feast of the Assumption, the altars are adorned with sweet-scented sage, with the “Virgin’s Flower,” its rustic perfume mingling with the odor of the incense floating around the altar.