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.

The third O Antiphon, December 19, 2020, addresses the promised Messiah as Root of Jesse, an image found in Isaiah 11: 1 and 10, and repeated in the prophet Jeremiah.

This O Antiphon begins with the rich metaphor: Root of Jesse that evidences the Holy’s intervention in human history. Jesse, pious farmer and breeder of sheep outside of Bethlehem, fathered David (1000 BCE), who became the second King of ancient Israel, founder of the Judean dynasty, statesman, warrior, musician, poet, author of the Psalms, and egregious sinner before his conversion of heart.

David’s total reliance upon Yahweh moved his people toward a new identity, only to disintegrate within moral lassitude following the opulent reign of his son Solomon. Still, the Israelites needed a Messiah who would liberate them; white-hot, their longing.

Then followed centuries of valiant leaders, all related to Jesse, with intermittent periods of peace and prosperity. Somewhere, veiled in the past, an unknown artist, seized by this succession of worthy leaders, imaged this phenomenon as the Tree of Life from which the Messiah would emerge.

Such must have also inspired the composer of this Antiphon. Reflection upon this composite would become a trenchant symbol/sign among peoples, kings, and nations (pagans). Here was power no one would mess with. Yet again, humankind has fallen short.   

Thus the continuing cry: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.