O Root of Jesse’s Stem

Five months ago, I was in the Holy Land on pilgrimage and had the opportunity to pray in Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity and the Shepherd’s Fields were full of pilgrims singing Christmas carols (in July!), but a surprise grace came while visiting with some nuns at the hilltop Convent of Carmel-Bethlehem.

While standing outside in the garden, I gazed down upon the Church of the Nativity situated in the little town of Bethlehem. Sister mentioned that we were standing in the Shepherd Fields of David. Bethlehem is called the City of David and I was in the very place where David was anointed King. The link between King David and Christ the King was palpable. Our Savior’s lineage traces directly back to David, the Root of Jesse’s stem (O Radix Jesse).

We hear today’s O Antiphon in the Alleluia verse: “O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for his people: come to save us without delay!”

Jesse was the father of King David, whose earthly kingdom eventually split, was conquered, and destroyed. And although many gave up hope, there was still a remnant that prayed:

“O Come, Thou Root of Jesse’s stem,
From every foe deliver them
That trust Thy mighty power to save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice, rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

Yes, there was a miraculous spark of life that sprung from a seemingly dead stump:

“Lo, how a Rose e’re blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.
It came a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.”

So, as we wait in joyful hope for our King to come, let us pray together with today’s antiphon from the Canticle of Mary in Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours:

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

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The “O Antiphons” are a beautiful poetic set of prayers. Integrate them into your prayer life and learn more here.

Rose Coleman is a contemplative in action who delights in all things beautiful. Her adventurous heart has traveled many places—from circumnavigating the globe on a ship during college to some years in the convent as a religious sister. Exuberant from her childhood, she is an elementary school teacher who learns so much from her students. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of our Blessed Conversations: Ways to Pray study found here

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