During the final seven evenings of Advent, which begin on December 17, the antiphons for the Magnificat during evening prayer all begin with ‘O’ followed by a different name for the Messiah. The various names for the prophesied Christ originate from the book of Isaiah the prophet, to whom we hear from mostly during the Advent Season. As a group, these antiphons are known as the O Antiphons. The most common Advent hymn, O Come Emmanuel, is a hymn variation of these seven names of the Messiah. Yesterday, we covered the second of these antiphons, the O Adonai antiphon. We will spend the next five evenings looking at the remaining antiphons each in turn as we journey toward Christmas Day.
December 19: O Radix Jesse antiphon (AKA O Stem of Jesse antiphon).
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
Isaiah Reference: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)
This chant (heard here or in the video below) sings of a stem rising from a stump, and one that will bear fruit. This small stem, seemingly inconsequential, will be the sign of God’s love.
Jesse was the king of the Israelites and father of David (We’ll hear more of David tomorrow). To be from the root of, or stem of a stump, something dead, indicates an initial insignificance. The word root or stem, taken from the Hebrew word netzer, implies unimportance. How truly significant that a Messiah, a Savior would be beheld at first as something insignificant, lowly, and decidedly unimpressive?
Perhaps it is our perceived insignificance, our lowly faults and that which we feel to be unimpressive which contains something of a Christ. When we can look with the eyes of this love at these not so impressive aspects of not only ourselves, but of others, then truly we will be saved without delay. We will have begun our part of bearing love into this world.
May we, as stems, shoot forth as signs of God’s love.