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Walter Wangerin, Jr.

The Carol of Seven Signs

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Editor's Note: For Christmas this year, we have reached into the vault for a poem by a writer I love, Walter Wangerin, Jr., first published in the November/December issue of Books & Culture. All best wishes to you.

Marye, maide, milde and fre,
Chambre of the trinite
Icrouned and ilore

The briar in a dry land grows;
Mary shall wear the bloodred rose,
Her son shall wear the thorn.

Saint Joseph cut the cherry tree
Whose fruit he gave to his lady.
then what was left? The stone.

Saint Joseph cut mahogany
To make the babe a crib—but he
Was to the manger born,
To wood already worn.

One father split the cedar tree
And made two beams: A house! cried he;
A cross, the other mourned.

Shepherds brought wool to the royal stall
For the mother a robe, for her darling a pall
for sleeping both cold and warm.

Three gentlemen offered three measures of myrhh,
A drop to perfume, a sponge to blur,
A tun to embalm the Lord.

And gold is lovely to the eye
But cold as stone to him who lies
Behind the golden door.

Now these—the briar and the cherry,
Wood and wool and gold—did Mary
Ponder when Christ was born.

Within her breast she kept it all,
A thorn, a cross, a stone, a pall,
And they herself adorned—

For the pain was his, but he was hers,
Her child, the treasure of her purse,
By whom her womb was torn:
Et eius Salvator.

—Walter Wangerin, Jr., is a Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University. Wangerin's forthcoming book, Letters from the Land of Cancer, is to be published in February 2010 by Zondervan (walterwangerinjr.org).

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