December 19th – O Radix Jesse – ‘I Am the True Vine’

The Advent Antiphons are said or sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers each evening of the week immediately prior to Christmas. Each one speaks of an aspect of the One who is to come, Israel’s hope and a Light to the Gentiles.

This set of reflections juxtaposes each of the Antiphons with one of the seven ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus Christ, the embodied Hope of all Creation – the Word made flesh.

In this video, the Dominican brothers of Blackfriars Oxford sing the Magnificat Antiphon, O Radix Jesse

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, you stand for an ensign of humankind,
before you kings shall keep silence,
and to you all nations shall have recourse.
Come save us and do not delay.
(Translation from Benedictine Daily Prayer: Liturgical Press)
One of the wonderful traditions of Advent is that of the Jesse tree. Like the Evangelists we too rehearse the Ancestral line of Jesus, patiently day by day and hour by hour rehearsing the story of his long awaited Coming.
But here, perhaps more clearly we might see that Advent has a different meaning for us. For we now await the One who has come as the fulfilment of the hope of Israel, and by Grace are found amongst those ‘least in the Kingdom of heaven’ [Matthew 11:11]
As the Life of God waited patiently in the world, down through so many generations, so in Christ this line of Kings reaches fulfilment. The fulfilment of the Hope of Israel, the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.
But who, to our astonishment and perplexity, like a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies . . . to bear seed . . . how many fold?
He becomes the source of Life for all who believe in his name and the work He calls us to is that of ‘believing in him’ – the work of patient trust – of Abiding in Him, as He Abides in us. He calls us to the Waiting of Contemplation, like that of a farmer watching his crops.
This too us may well seem rather passive – like those who hear the word of Jesus telling them that ‘the work of God is to believe in the one he has sent’ – we have little time for contemplation. But thus we are easily uprooted from the vine, for we are then ‘free’ to be pulled hither and thither, this way and that. Prey to every Siren voice, we lose sight of the ‘dwelling place’ he has prepared for us in the throne room of His very heart.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Over many years, the Word patiently waited, until the time was right. Down through the ages, through the line of Jesse, He Abided in his people. We too now are invited to Abide in Him, to in Contemplation behold His Face, that of the Father’s only begotten, and thus be transformed from one degree of glory to another.

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