The third antiphon of the Great O Antiphons reads: “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 sonnet is based on Isaiah 11:1, 10-12. “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit….
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. 12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”
O Root of Jesse, the tender shoot
From whom the kingdom springs
In this world reach down, take root
To free the captives bring your blessings.
O Root of Jesse, who walked Galilee
Working wonders among your own
Stopping to heal those why cry, “Mercy!”
But for you, no mercy was shown,
O Root of Jesse, born to die
Raised on a tree, thorns for a crown
Raised to life, the tomb opened to sky
The stump springs green though the tree cut down.
O Root of Jesse, who makes men free,
Take root in my heart and grow in me
(c) Randy Edwards
artwork: The Jesse Tree in the Lambeth Psalter, unknown English miniaturist, c.1140s