19 December 2008

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, standing like a banner before the nations, in whose presence kings fall silent, whose praise all peoples shall sing: Come, set us free, do not delay.

In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit. (Isaiah 27.6)

The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope. (Romans 15.12)

Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’ (Revelation 5.5)
The Root of Jesse: all that remained of the once-powerful Kingdom of Judah; a promise nurtured by the hopes of the Israelites during centuries of oppression. They expected a new Davidic king, a charismatic general who would lead them to victory over their oppressors.

Enter Jesus: child of an unmarried mother engaged to a carpenter, born in a stable, soon to be a refugee in Egypt, destined to become an itinerant preacher and be executed for blasphemy and treason. Hardly the victorious leader expected by the Jews of his day, but this is the paradox of the gospel: the apparent weakness, smallness and vulnerability of a new shoot is the embodiment of the greatest power imaginable.
All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,
Rose from a root invisible to all.
We knew the virtues once of every weed,
But, severed from the roots of ritual,
We surf the surface of a wide-screen world
And find no virtue in the virtual.
We shrivel on the edges of a wood
Whose heart we once inhabited in love,
Now we have need of you, forgotten Root
The stock and stem of every living thing
Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,
For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.

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