Saturday, December 18, 2010

O RADIX JESSE



O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

One of the great themes of medieval art is the Jesse Tree. You will find variations of it all over Europe both in parish churches and great cathedrals. The point of these trees is our Lord's descent from the father of King David, but also of something else. In one of his conflicts with the pharisees Jesus asked them if the Messiah who was to come was David's son, why did David then say "The Lord said unto my Lord, set thou on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool?" The only possible answer frightened and confused them. What it was intended to point out was that He who was and is to come was no ordinary king. It is something which in this day and time we need greatly to remember and this is where this one of the Great O's points us.

O Root of Jesse, *which standest for an ensign of the people, to whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles seeK : Come and deliver us and tarry not.

The text again points to passages in the prophet Isaiah. "A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1
* "On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:10 But Isaiah was not along. Micah also wrote that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and even be born in David's own city. St Paul in his epistle to the Romans reminded the early Roman Christians and, by extension, all of us of this fact.

But the most interesting part of the antiphon for me is to be found in the last words, "and tarry not." He has promised to come and we are supposed to be anxious for his quick coming. But are we? If we are not ready, then this period of the Great O's is one in which we are reminded that we should and must be. We must be excited about it; we must stir up our hearts and the very best way of doing that is the worship of the church, the daily offices and the Eucharist which we have "until his coming again."

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