“O Radix Jesse” – the desert flower long awaited

A reflection on “O Radix Jesse” by Francisco Antonio (Class of 2011 at UC Berkeley, A.B. Physics, B.S. Chemistry)

O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.//

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

The Great Antiphons are sung in the spirit of Advent so that we would hear the words of a soul readying itself to receive the Lord of creation. Likewise, as we give ourselves over to silent meditation on this Antiphon, we would hear our own soul and its yearnings for the greatest goods of creation. It is good to hear these things—the intimations of the Divine Word in our hearts. Let it encourage us to return from this meditative reading with renewed vigor in pursuing God as the highest end.

On this third day of our seven day run-up to our Lord’s Nativity, Israel calls out for help to our Savior, the “flower of Jesse’s stem”—who is the fulfillment of prophecies long past in a beautiful flowering of Divine revelation. God’s divine providence is a beautiful sign to those who see it, but we are reminded often that Jesus is not the sign that we now or the Jews then would have expected.

Instead of a God-King who would lead Israel’s armies to victory against its Roman oppressors, the Jews were given to lead them a most vulnerable child. Instead of a victory over our enemies by might of arms, God showed us the triumph of love over our greatest foes: sin and death.

Truly we who prepare a way in the desert for our Lord – alongside St. John the Baptist – are just as surprised. Who would have expected such a flower to bloom in this arid desolation? But that is God’s sign to confound the wise and to raise the hopes of the humble. It is in the least expected manner that God will come into our lives. This Advent season is a call to vigilance so that it may be said of us that we stood our watch out of love — ready to throw open the doors of our hearts at the first sign of Christ’s coming.

And it is wonderful that we seek this readiness of heart. For Christ became man not to fulfill our many expectations, but to satisfy our inmost desires and prepare our eternal souls for union with God in the Beatific vision. So let us not seek profit ourselves from this time of Advent, but humbly trust that God will provide for us the greatest good in which all other goods are put in their proper context. Let us not weary God with our plans, but happily give over to Him the responsibility of guiding us to the greatest happiness. And wherever God points us, let us work diligently to make straight a highway in that direction until we too come to discover Jesus’ love, the desert flower long awaited.