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O Antiphon, Dec. 19

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  • Br. Jerome Leo
    +PAX O Root of Jesse, You stand for an ensign of mankind; before You kings shall keep silence, and to You all nations shall have recourse. Come and save us
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 18, 2007

      "O Root of Jesse, You stand for an ensign of mankind; before You
      kings shall keep silence, and to You all nations shall have recourse.
      Come and save us and do not delay."

      Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Judah and of David's kingdom.
      However a stock, a root, a stump, if you will, would remain, the root
      of Jesse, David's father. From that stock a sprout would burst forth
      which would be more than David, Whose power and esteem would be
      greater than that of the former kingdom.

      Those of us living in the north can well appreciate this image.
      Winter comes, long winter, and nothing visible of a perennial's
      splendor remains. Hidden in the earth, the life, the promise waits in
      the roots for spring. One clips the ugly remnant to the ground and
      awaits the resurgence in the coming Spring. There was a long winter
      of centuries for Jesse's Root, but, when its Spring came it flowered
      forth Christ, the Messiah.

      When Christ appears, He is, like the first sprigs of spring growth,
      much smaller than the tree which had been felled, and seemingly
      weaker and more vulnerable, yet His power and scope is far, far
      greater than that of those who preceded Him. Just as in the
      gentleness/strength contrast of ordering all things mightily and
      sweetly, here the apparent weakness, smallness and vulnerability of a
      new shoot is the embodiment of the greatest power imaginable. Jesus
      IS God, but He comes in vesture that hardly brings to mind a power
      broker. It is the topsy-turviness of the Gospel paradox.

      This tender Sprig is actually an ensign for the nations, a rallying
      flag for all peoples and it is so in a way that the mighty tree of a
      kingdom which came first could never have hoped to be. Whatever may
      have been the temporary influence and prestige of Israel's kings, it
      was nothing compared to what is promised here.

      What we translate as "nations" and Latin renders as "gentes" had a
      very different significance for the Hebrews. By that term, they
      really meant "Gentiles" everyone who was not Jewish which, of course,
      included every nation- all the nations- other than themselves. Hence,
      this term, easily missed as innocuous in English or Latin, is far
      from it. It speaks directly to opening the promise of God's salvation
      to ALL peoples, to the New Israel which is the Body of Christ, whose
      membership is potentially the entire world. The tiny Branch will
      break down walls and barriers.

      This is the first day we add some special urgency to our daily plea
      of "come!" We add: "and do not delay." The most casual glance at the
      world's leaders and the state of things today will reveal that the
      fullness of the Messiah's role as a rallying point for all, before
      Whom all rulers shall be silent, is hardly just around the corner. We
      affirm that by our urgency, by begging Him to hurry!

      A final Benedictine aside, which I think plays so well with the
      imagery of this antiphon may be found in a popular symbol for Monte
      Cassino. The great abbey, so often destroyed in its long history, is
      depicted as the stump of a huge and mighty tree, with a tender green
      shoot growing from its center. The Latin motto which accompanies the
      image is "Succisa Virescit" that is, "Cut down, it grows back."

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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