Saturday, December 19, 2009

Come, Rod of Jesse's Stem (O Radix Jesse)

The Season of Light:
The Christmas 'Novena', Day 3

The Word: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 (The birth of Samson: "He shall be consecrated to God, from the womb until the day of his death")
Psalm 71:3-6, 16-17 (You are my hope, O Lord; my mouth is filled with your praise, and I will sing of your glory)
Luke 1:5-25 (The archangel Gabriel tells Zechariah that he will be the father of a child 'great in the sight of the Lord')

The readings today bring to mind many of the progeny promised throughout the whole of the Bible: not only Samson, but Ishmael (Genesis 16:7-16), Isaac (Genesis 18:1-15), Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20), John the Baptizer (Luke 1:5-25), and finally, Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Jesus, the 'descendant' of King David, is the rod, or shoot, or flower of Jesse's stem (Jesse being the father of David, (1 Samuel 16:1-13). One must wonder at this point that even though our featured hymn is accredited to the 9th Century, its origins are more likely much older and obscure.

Veni, O Jesse virgula,
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
De specu tuos tartari
Educ et antro barathri.

Gaude, gaude!
Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust Thy mighty pow'r to save,
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

--O Come, O Come Emmanuel
(verse three)

A year ago, these were my thoughts on the day:
The evangelists Matthew and Luke went to lengths to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah, a direct descendant of David, Israel's greatest king. David was the youngest son of Jesse, and by Old Testament accounts, the 'runt of the litter.' Yet it was David who went on to greatness, and his brothers into obscurity. As David came 'out of nowhere', so to speak, so did Jesus. We really don't know his exact moment of birth. In a year like this one passing, could our longing for anything better (economy, weather, leadership) be more well placed than at Christmas?

And a year later, though some things may seem to have improved, our 'longing for better' remains, especially where the big picture is concerned.

O Flower of Jesse's stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
rulers stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in  worship before you.
Come; let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

--Antiphon from Evening Vespers in the Divine Office

The earth is your mother; she holds you.
The sky is your father; he protects you.
Sleep, sleep.
Rainbow is your sister; she loves you.
The winds are your brothers; they sing to you.
Sleep, sleep.
We are together always.
We are together always.
There was never a time...when this was not so.

--Native American song/prayer

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