Tag Archives: Advent

O Root of Jesse

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

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

The bulk of this text is taken from various sections of the book of the prophet Isaiah (cf 11:1; 11:10; 52:15). In spirit, the prophet say how Judah and the kingdom of David would be destroyed. But there would remain a holy root. From the stump of Jesse (the name of the father of King David) springs forth a twig (root), a twig that becomes a banner unto all the nations. In its presence, kings will become reverently silent, and the nations will bow down and worship. It is clear that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah. David’s royal line was dethroned with the exile, and thereafter remained shrouded in oblivion—Jesse’s stump. But with Christ, a new branch buds out of the old root; the throne of David is once more occupied. “And the angel said to Mary: The Lord God will give unto Him the throne of David His Father; and He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.” Christ is of the root of Jesse, both as a descendant of David and as occupant of the royal throne.

The antiphon sums up two aspects of the Messiah and His work. His origins may be humble and unimpressive; but His Kingdom will embrace the whole earth, drawing all nations into it, and placing high and low alike under its rule.

Now the petition: “Come, save us and do not delay!” Millions do not yet recognize the Savior’s saving insignia of the Cross; leaders, dictators, presidents, mayors do not stand in silent awe before Christ’s presence; indeed, it is till true what the psalmist sang: “the Gentiles rage, and kings rise up while princes unite against God and against His Christ.” Even in my own soul—-is Christ perfect Sovereign of every quarter of my being? “Come, Lord, save us and please do not delay!”

O Adonai

The second O Antiphon sung in keeping watch for the Lord’s Nativity:

O ADONAI [God of the covenant] and Ruler of the house of Israel, You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mt. Sinai gave him Your Law: COME, and redeem us with an outstretched arm!

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959)

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity had an active part in creation, as was noted in yesterday’s “O.” Now the liturgy, seeing Christ in the perspective of divinity, finds Him active in the Old Testament. Christ was the “Covenant of God” of the Chosen People. He made a covenant with Noah, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and with Moses; He was the ruler of the Jewish people through history; two of His many appearances are mentioned in tonight’s antiphon (the burning bush and the giving of the Law midst lightning and thunder). The petition associates the deliverance from Egypt with the world-wide redemption from the bondage of sin.

The “Exodus event” is one of the most important of all of salvation history. It began when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, commissioning him to lead the Chosen People. This climaxed in the giving of the Law on Sinai. God showed Himself to His people as Defender and Redeemer, going before them “with an outstretched arm.”

This same “Exodus event” has always been regarded as a primary “type” of Christ’s work of redemption. Year after year we are brought back to these images and their fulfillment in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And today Jesus wants to enter my soul, to be its Ruler and Lawgiver. Christian life means following Christ. Christ wants to be my Law; without Him, there is no Kingdom of God. He wants to redeem me “with an outstretched arm,” but can do so only on condition that I unite my will to His. Listen, O my soul, to His direction!

O Wisdom

Tonight, we began a more discernible and final stretch in our preparations, our keeping watch, for the Nativity of the Lord with the singing of the “O” Antiphons at Vespers. There are seven special texts –antiphons– sung at the time we sing the Magnificat. The monks and guests here at St Louis Abbey (where I am visiting until tomorrow) sang the antiphon in Latin but here it the first antiphon in English:

O Wisdom,You came forth from the mouth of the Most High, You reach from beginning to end, ordering all things mightily and sweetly: COME, and teach us the way of prudence!

For your time in Lectio I would recommend praying with the O Antiphons. Even sing them as a way of praying with the text. If you need the music go to the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Please keep in mind, that each antiphon contains one or more Old Testament type or figure; and that each allusion has a message for those of us in the New Covenant. The OT shapes, it forms and informs our understanding of the person of Jesus we come to know in the NT. Biblical typology is crucial for Christians when reading, praying and studying the sacred Scriptures.

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959) with the assistance of JM Thompson:

In today’s O, we are pointed to the many praises of “Wisdom” in the Old Testament. One of the various senses in which the word is used refers to the divine attribute of wisdom, which is at times personified. Accordingly, we read of wisdom as proceeding from God, as being begotten of Him, as the breath of His power, the effusion of His glory. Wisdom is the beloved daughter who at the beginning of creation stood before God, assisting in the creation of the visible universe. From this concept of Wisdom, there later developed the doctrine of the LOGOS (the Word) in St. John’s Gospel.

But wisdom is also represented as a human attribute, as the foundation of all virtue. It is not so much knowledge and human prudence as knowing how to live—that is, true holiness. Its ultimate root is the fear of God (“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”), its final goal is divine knowledge and love. The first part of today’s antiphon is from the book of Sirach (24:3); the second part is from the Book of Wisdom (8:1). In highly poetic phraseology, the origin and co-creative activity of wisdom are portrayed.

The text continues with the creative activity of the Son of God. St. John says in the Prologue to his Gospel: “All things were made by Him (the LOGOS) and without Him was made nothing that was made.” And St. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “In Him (i.e., Christ) were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” (Col. 1:16) Hence, according to the NT, Christ (as the pre-mundane LOGOS) is the Creator and archetype of the material universe. How beautifully our antiphon describes the LOGOS as wisdom, encompassing and ordering all things!

It is the object of this antiphon to portray the NT Creator of the invisible spiritual world, rather than the Maker of the visible universe around us. In His Church and in the soul, “He reaches from beginning to end!” “Come, teach us the way of prudence!” What an all-embracing petition! Make us perfect Christians—Christians who are wholly penetrated with the leaven of Christ…who combine strength with gentleness, strong in battle against the world and ourselves.

Three comings of the Lord

The Advent period of the Church in which we are asked to prepare for the coming of the Lord, and there are times we are left without much to ponder. The coming of the Lord, or rather, the comings of the Lord, are not merely about a supernal existence, but there is a incarnational, that is, a concrete, real aspect to the Lord’s presence in our life. But I have to ask, do we really believe this fact of the Christian faith? Perhaps today we ought to consider the words of the great Cistercian Father, Saint Bernard,

“We know there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among us; he himself testifies that people saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him who they have pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within themselves and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in the middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty. Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.”

Advent of the Heart

Alfred Delp Advent of the HeartIf you are looking for spiritual reading for Advent, but dare I say, for life, I would recommend a book by Jesuit Father Alfred Delp, Advent of the Heart: Season Sermons and Prison Writings, 1941-1944 (Ignatius Press, 2006).

Spiritual reading expands the mind and the heart; it challenges our sense of complacency and comfort; spiritual reading pushes back the boundaries of ignorance.

Born in 1907, Alfred Delp was a baptized Catholic and raised in the Lutheran community until he was 14 when he reverted to the practice of Catholic faith. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1926 and ordained a priest in 1937. The Society missioned Delp to work as an editor and then as a pastor of souls.

Father Delp was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime and a leader in the Resistance movement. The powers that be accused Delp of conspiring against the Nazi party –he was tortured, imprisoned, and executed on February 2, 1945.

Advent of the Heart contains some his meditations from prison during the Advent season as well as his sermons he gave on the season of Advent at his parish in Munich.

The publisher writes,

His [Delp’s] approach to Advent, the season that prepares us for Christmas, is what Fr. Delp called an “Advent of the heart.” More than just preparing us for Christmas, it is a spiritual program, a way of life. He proclaimed that our personal, social and historical circumstances, even suffering, offer us entry into the true Advent, our personal journey toward a meeting and dialogue with God. Indeed, his own life, and great sufferings, illustrated the true Advent he preached and wrote about.

 From his very prison cell he presented a timeless spiritual message, and in an extreme situation, his deep faith gave him the courage to draw closer to God, and to witness to the truth even at the cost of his own life. These meditations will challenge and inspire all Christians to embark upon that same spiritual journey toward union with God, a journey that will transform our lives.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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