O Root 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 delay no longer.

Like all the other ‘O Antiphons’ this one too is steeped in Old Testament imagery. (See Isaiah chapter 11 and 12). Jesse, who was David’s father and one of Jesus’ great ancestors, is mentioned in St Matthew’s genealogy. Because of infidelity to the covenant, David’s royal line is dethroned at the time of the exile to Babylon and became shrouded in oblivion but the Prophet Isaiah prophesies that from the stump or root of Jesse a new twig will spring forth – a twig that becomes a branch for all the nations. It is clear that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah.

Reflecting on this antiphon and Chapter 11 and 12 of Isaiah brings us hope in our present situation in the Irish Church. Throughout history we have ample proof and documentation of the sinful and evil lives of clerical and lay members of Christ’s Church – we have all sinned and fallen short, have betrayed our God in whom we profess our faith and our fellow pilgrims to whom we owe love and respect. Yet the Church (Christ’s Mystical Body) never ceases to renew itself through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ promise – to be with His people always until the end of time – gives us hope and quiet confidence even in the midst of our present pain and bewilderment. It is the responsibility of each of us to live as He taught us while we pray that from the ashes of our shame He will again raise up saints who will show forth the true image of the Church by preaching the Good News to the poor, libery to captives, sight to the blind, and set the downtrodden free (cf Lk 4:18).

In today’s antiphon we call out: “O come and deliver us and delay no longer! – bring us the longed for healing and reconciliation; let us know your comforting Presence in our need; open our hearts to receive your love that we in our turn may be able to love.”

We remember St Catherine of Siena’s prayer:

O great and Eternal Trinity, as if intoxicated with love and gone mad over Your creature, seeing that since it was separated from You who are Life, it could produce only the fruit of death, You provided a remedy for it with the same love with which You created it and grafted Your divinity on to the dead tree of our humanity; O sweet and gentle grafting! You who are greatest sweetness deigned to unite Yourself to our littleness; You who are Brightness with darkness; You, Wisdom with foolishness; You Life with death; You Who are infinite with us who are finite. What constrained You to do this in order to restore us to life? ONLY LOVE!