O Radix Jesse - an Advent reflection

A reflection on O Radix Jesse ... O Root of Jesse

Matthew is eager to demonstrate in the genealogy which opens his Gospel that Jesus’ lineage is the blood line of kings and can be traced back to Abraham through the great King David and his father Jesse. Hence his name as the Root of Jesse, meaning a descendant or one from the family stock of the royal ancestry of Jesse. By this Christ, is shown to be the fulfilment to the covenant God made with David that his descendant’s throne and kingdom would be established forever.

The image of the shoot and stump famously appears as a Messianic reference in Isaiah, chapter 11, when the prophet sees, beyond Judah’s destruction by the Assyrians and the crushing exile brought by the Babylonians, to a time when God will send His salvation through His Anointed One, who will grow like a young shoot from the stump of David’s dynasty. There is great hope in the faithfulness of God to perform his Word, as salvation comes from what appears cut off and dead.

In the New Testament the passive verb ‘being rooted’ denotes the sense of being securely planted or established. St Paul speaks of the Gentiles, as those who have been ‘grafted in’, and are ‘being rooted and grounded in love’ having the power to comprehend the extent of God’s love and ‘be filled with the fulness of God.’ (Eph 3:17-19) Jesus himself used similar natural imagery when he, in his farewell discourse speaks of his followers as branches that abide and remain in him – drawing life and fruitfulness from The Vine, as their life source ( John 15)

This sonnet by Malcolm Guite urges us, as an antidote to the malaise of our dislocating times, to find our rootedness and centre in Christ, as the Root of all goodness.

O Radix  - Malcolm Guite

All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,
Rose from a root invisible to all.
We knew the virtues once of every weed,
But, severed from the roots of ritual,
We surf the surface of a wide-screen world
And find no virtue in the virtual.
We shrivel on the edges of a wood
Whose heart we once inhabited in love,
Now we have need of you, forgotten Root
The stock and stem of every living thing
Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,
For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.

© Malcolm Guite, from the Great O Antiphons in Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012 www.malcolmguite.com Used by permission.


Please join now in saying The Magnificat , with the third great antiphon:

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed
the almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel
to remember his promise of mercy.

The promise made to our ancestors
To Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
And to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

From Common Worship © The Archbishops Council of the Church of England 2000-2006

The Bible quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.