O Antiphons: O Root of Jesse . . . deliver us

December 19
O Radix Jesse (Isaiah 11:1, 10):
“O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.”


From Sylvia Maddox

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
And a branch shall grow out of his root.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.  [Isaiah 11: 1-3]

Every time I pray Psalm 16 — the words“I have a goodly heritage” — I feel a sweet gratitude for the roots of my faith. I see the faith of my family, of my worshiping family, and the  spiritual communion  I share with all families who share this heritage.  In Advent, I remember making The Jesse Tree with my sons to help them recall the roots of their faith. Today to  sing O Redix Jesse is to remember the roots, but also to see a branch, a shoot, growing and extending beyond a heritage we know to one we can only imagine.

In contemporary culture,  many people are searching for their ancestors, where they came from, and what is their heritage.  Indeed, finding one’s roots gives a sense of belonging and identity of an earthly heritage.  As Christians, we realize our longings and our identities are in the household of faith.  This household begins with Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, and David was the one who received the promise that one of his heirs would become a king forever. The vision of the Tree of Jesse gives us an image of an earthly kingdom that was begun and had with it a promise in the form of a new “shoot,” which promise would be fulfilled in the life and reign of Christ.

The hope of Advent creates a new vision of Jesse’s earthy kingdom, and it came from a branch of the old.   This new kingdom would widen and grow to include all people of the world who are seeking and longing for the root of all that is good and who have a desire for the promise that is found in Christ. In the hymn version  of the O Redix Jesse there is a desire for victory that will come when Christ comes to us “without delay.”  This prayer of longing intensifies as we come closer to Christmas.

In his last letter from Asia, Thomas Merton wrote of the oneness of God with His people, the eternal family and the victory of Love:

Our spirit is rooted in your Spirit
Fill us then with your Spirit…,
 Unite us in this one Spirit which makes You present in the world.
Love has overcome. Love is Victorious. 

We rejoice in our  “goodly heritage.”  Amen.


Sylvia Maddox is a writer and educator. She is a member of Church of the Reconciliation, San Antonio TX.

Photography by the Rev. Doug Earle. See more of Doug’s work at Www.DougEarlePhotography.com.

The O Antiphons recall the prophet Isaiah’s several descriptions of the coming Messiah. We recognize them as the verses of the well-known Advent hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel. During the seventh and eighth centuries, these descriptions were compiled into antiphons and were recited before and after the Magnificat during Vespers or Evening Prayer for the seven evenings preceding Christmas.

We present these O Antiphons from December 17 to December 23 along with meditations from writers across the diocese and the photography of the Rev. Doug Earle.

For more about the O Antiphons click here.

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