O Root of Jesse
A reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as Root of Jesse. (If you prefer to listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below). 

The shrub that was damaged

“O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the peoples, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall make supplication, come to deliver us and delay not”

When reflecting on this evening’s ‘O Antiphon’ the image which came to mind was a shrub in our garden which was completely burned up in the severe frost and snow four years ago – nothing was left but dry wood. However, Jos, our wise gardener decided not to dig it up – he just cut it back to ground level, leaving the root intact. Ever since, it has fascinated me to watch it grow and come back to life again. Several months passed before tiny shoots began to sprout – for over a year I wondered if it would just remain a stump with a few twigs on it – but NO! now four years later it is a large healthy shrub adorning the garden and gaining height and width with each passing year.
Our antiphon addresses the ‘Root of Jesse’ which stands as a sign for the nations. Jesse, as we know, was the father of King David from whose line the Messiah, Jesus our Saviour, sprang. David desired to build a house for his Lord but he was reminded that it was God who would build him a house – the True Temple, the Body of Christ and by extension the Church – where God dwells with us and in us and we live in Him. But before that could happen David’s descendents throughout history would be repeatedly cut down to the roots so that true integrity and righteousness would blossom forth. No matter how low the people fell God always held out hope that a ‘shoot would spring from the stock of Jesse and on him would rest the Spirit of the Lord.
After the Exile they were once again reminded:
“the Root of Jesse, standing as a signal for the peoples, will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious” (Is 11:10).
Jesus springs from the Root of Jesse and exclaims: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:1). – another image of life being sustained by the sap from the root – to the extent that we are attached to Him, the true Vine, we bear fruit. However, as we all know from experience, in the life of the Church and of each individual person the Divine Vinedresser needs to prune us and often cut us down to the very ground – not to destroy us but so that new shoots can spring forth; for the Divine Sap which we received at Baptism continues to flow through us and therefore we need never lose hope when the fruit is slow to appear – as was the case with the shrub in the garden.
Again it took centuries of pruning and caring before the Messiah sprang from the Root of Jesse. As God waited a thousand years from David to find a heart as open, humble and empty as Mary who said “I am the handmaid of the Lord”, so He can wait a life time for us to truly open our hearts to welcome him in such a way that we can be wholly His. Therefore we must never lose hope for ourselves or others and must always strive to inspire that hope in those who have lost all hope in God and in themselves.
As we prepare for the coming of our Saviour this Christmas we cry out to Him with the whole Church:
“O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the peoples, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall make supplication, come to deliver us and delay not”