The Antiphon for this Great Day of Advent hails the Christ as “O Rex Gentium”: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Israel’s experience with kings was not a happy one. It began with her desire to have a king, like other nations (1 Samuel 8:6). God gave them a king (Saul) with a caveat about abuse of royal power. Saul was a disaster and his anointed successor, David, did fine until he spotted Bathsheba,. Their son Solomon was wise but his wisdom did not extend to choosing pagan wives. After Solomon, amidst a crumbling monarchy, through Isaiah, the Lord promised salvation under a new Davidic King. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests? They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by his judgment and justice, both now and forever.“(Isaiah 9:5-6) Jeremiah announced that this Davidic monarch would not only rule over Israel but the world: “No one is like you, Lord,, you are great, great and mighty is your name. Who would not fear you, King of the nations, for it is your due! Among all the wisest of the nations, and in all their domains there is none like you.” (Jeremiah 10:6-7) But Israel’s longing for an ideal king would not be fulfilled by a mighty warrior king who would use his power to smite their enemies but by the Prince of Peace whose reign would bring peace, justice and reconciliation “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” (Ephesians 2:13-14) Israel’s long wait was nearing an end
Dec 22, 2014 12:28pm
The Antiphon for this Great Day of Advent hails the Christ as “O Radix Jesse,” inviting us to sing out “O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of all mankind); before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.” What urgency there is this antiphon. Something that lies below the earth (a root) stands high unto the heavens like a banner. Isaiah 11:10 gives us imagery for our reflection today. The great prophet of Advent tells us that the kingdom of David would be destroyed, but not entirely destroyed. A root would remain. Jesse is David’s father. David is Jesse’s root. David leads to Christ. After the destruction there remains a root. No matter what the exigencies of life present to us or how turbulent the vicissitudes of the passing world may be, when we cling to the root we are sure to be victorious in the end. Medieval Christian craftsmen and artists created wonderful Jesse trees, the sleeping Jesse at the base with a tree growing out of his loins and on each branch those ancestors of Christ opening out like leaves until we reach the final flowering of Mary with her child Jesus. The Gospel genealogies of Jesus trace his descent from Jesse the father of David. This is to show the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy, that the Messiah came from David’s royal house and lineage and would be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5.2). The ancient world was fascinated by the genealogy of Kings, because a direct and confirmed lineage proved their right to rule. Today we are not so fixed on these claims as our ancestors were, for Christians a new and universal family is constituted, where all are one in Christ (Gal 3.28.) Nevertheless this antiphon acts as a catalyst to help us find our ancestry as children of creation. In two quotes from Isaiah an image of strong roots and strong growth helps us understand how we too are part of the tree of Jesse. The prophet talks about the shoot that shall come from the stock of Jesse, from which a branch will grow full of fruit ( Is 11.1) On that day when the earth will be ‘filled with the knowledge of the lord as the waters cover the sea’, ‘the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for all the peoples, the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious’(Is 11.9,10). Because we are grafted on to Christ, our task is to continually bear good fruit.
Dec 19, 2014 11:21am