Part sea chantey, part catechism, this is one to sing with the kids!
Devotion to “the Seven Joys of Mary” considers events in the life of the Blessed Virgin, and has been around since the medieval era. There were originally only five recognized joys, but this number swelled to seven, nine, and then up to 15 before resting on the number seven, which may have been decided upon in order for the Joys of Mary to run in tandem with the Sorrows of Mary, a devotion that arose several hundred years prior to the Joys.
The carol has been around in one form or another for hundreds of years, but it only became identified with Christmas in the 20th century. Traditionally, the seven joys include the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Resurrection of Christ, the Ascension of Christ to Heaven, the Pentecost, and the Coronation of the Virgin in Heaven.
There are however, alternate versions, which most likely arose when the medieval tradition had it bumped up to 15. Other versions include Christ’s miracles, such as curing the lame and blind, and raising the dead, as well as moments from Christ’s Passion, like bearing His cross and wearing a crown of thorns.
The rendition by The Great Big Sea chose the imagery of Christ on the cross as the sixth Joy of Mary. While it does seem strange that they would choose to include such a sorrow among the joys, it could be argued that Mary felt joy and pride for her son’s sacrifice in fulfillment of his ministry and the redemption that came from the Son’s obedience to the will of the Father.
The duality of emotions felt by all Catholics when we remember the Crucifixion is important to our faith. After all, the moments of Jesus’ death and resurrection are also the moments of ultimate victory for our Triune God. By adding this Sorrow to the Joys, The Great Big Sea has given us an invaluable and instructive gift for our children, who will want to sing it all day long, because it’s the most infectious carol we’ve ever heard.
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