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Pick up this and other wonderful music for Advent and Christmas from the monks of Saint Meinrad by clicking here: http://store.saintmeinrad.edu/scholarshop/music/gregorian-chant-schola-advent-christmas/c-25/c-77/p-480
These “O Antiphons” are ancient pieces of chant sung on the days from December 17th through December 23rd. Each day a different Old Testament title for the messiah is beseeched to come. As the world cried out in longing for the Messiah before Christ, so we still cry out for his return.
Today’s Antiphon is sung to “Radix Jesse”
Latin: O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
English: O root of Jesse, who stand as a sign for the peoples, whom kings will kneel with silence, whom nations will entreat with prayer, come to set us free, delay no longer.
The kings will seek out the Lord (the “wise men” are the first to do it) will seek out the Lord because he is the answer to the question that is every human heart (as John Paul II would say, paraphrasing Gaudium et Spes paragraph 22).
This title of the Messiah as the “Root of Jesse” clearly references the prophecy found in Isaiah 11:1-13
When we read in Isaiah about the “stump of Jesse” it is an image not unlike the “family tree” image we use today. The family tree of Jesse, who was the Father of the first king of Israel, King David, had run its course and was no longer capable of bearing fruit. The kings had corrupted and the fruit of Jesse’s tree, through the generations, had withered away to a barren stump.
But as anyone who has spent time in the woods can tell you, sometime where a stump is dead, a new plant can spring forth from the stump. It is quite cool to see a new plant growing on a dead stump. That is exactly what Isaiah is prophesying – the dead tree of Israel’s kings will, in the Messiah, see a new plant shoot forth from the dead stump, a new king, a king that will be sought out by all the kingdoms of the Earth.
The prophecy as we read it in Isaiah: