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ROOT OF JESSE

O ROOT OF JESSEYOU STAND AS A SIGN FOR ALL PEOPLEBEFORE YOU ALL RULERS KEEP SILENTFROM YOU EACH NATION SEEKS HELPO COMEFREE US; DO NOT MAKE US WAIT.The great urge is to get political about this antiphon, probably because it does actually sound politica…

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ROOT OF JESSE

O ROOT OF JESSE
YOU STAND AS A SIGN FOR ALL PEOPLE

BEFORE YOU ALL RULERS KEEP SILENT

FROM YOU EACH NATION SEEKS HELP

O COME

FREE US; DO NOT MAKE US WAIT.

The great urge is to get political about this antiphon, probably because it does actually sound political. It sounds like the Root of Jesse is somehow a source of help and freedom for all nations and their leaders. It is political, but it is also personal, and also cosmic. It is central to most spiritual traditions and an archetype of the collective unconscious of humanity. I was awake most of last night meditating on this, this sacred tree.   

I’m a dreamer and several weeks ago, before I was thinking about O Antiphons at all, I woke stunned by a dream of this tree. I stumbled into the Morning Room at Casa Chiara and, still reeling from what I can only call an encounter, I wrote the dream like this:

“I’m with a group of women, and we are entering into a deep forest by a large body of water. The mood is one of awe and discovery. The deeper we go, the more the canopy of trees covers the sun and the forest is cast into shadow. Through the shadows I see two overwhelming giant redwood trees—the biggest in the world. A person standing next to the larger one would seem the size of an embryo, or a bean, or a tiny river stone. I call out to the others and all of us attempt to move closer to the majestic trees. However the closer I get to the larger tree, the more dense the feel of it becomes—the less space there is around it—until I’m feeling crushed by the presence of the tree itself. It’s almost as though I am being weighed down “under” it, as though I am among its roots, part of it. I’ll be subsumed if I go farther, and yet the attraction and magnetism of the tree is profound.”

Most ancient cultures envisioned a “world tree” at the core of their spiritual life, of their cultural mythology. This image connected the earthly realm with the heavenly. It was the totem pole, the sacred oak, the Tree of Life in Eden, the tree of generations with Jesse as its root. The early Christians traced the genealogy of Jeshua (Jesus) back to Jesse, the grandfather of King David, and saw him as the flowering of that Root, the new World Tree that would reach out beyond a nation to include in its branches the “Others” or strangers then called Gentiles. Jeshua himself would be the Sacred Tree on which the opposites of the world would be reconciled. This is a lot to put my mind around. No wonder my dream stunned me.

The Sacred Tree, though, is even more than a human tribal or world genealogy. In the mystical Jewish Kabbalah it becomes the flowing of God into and through the created world. From Ein Soph, the divine emptiness, to Shekhinah, God among us, the tree’s branches are the energies or emanations of Being itself called the Sefirot. I recommend Daniel C. Matt’s book, The Essential Kabbalah, for meditations on each of these divine emanations, or as Matt says, “stages of God’s inner life, aspects of the divine personality…emerging from Ein Sof, the Endless.” They are the branches of the Sacred Tree and are:

1. Crown/Will/Nothingness,

2. Wisdom/Beginning,

3. Understanding/Womb,  

4. Love/Grace,

5. Power/Judgment,  

6. Beauty/Compassion,

7. Eternity/Prophecy,

8. Splendor/Prophecy,

9. Foundation/Covenant,

10. Presence/Kingdom/Communion/Queen.

Here is the sign before whom rulers keep silence and nations seek help. Personally we enter through the roots and are drawn upwards. God does not change as we ascend, but we do, and as we share in the higher emanations of Being our hearts are transformed and our spirits overflow. IF we are willing. IF we dare to be absorbed into the roots of the Sacred Tree, even though there’s fear in it of oblivion. It will not be oblivion for the person, the nation or the ruler. It will be presence, covenant, splendor, eternity, beauty and compassion, power of right judgment, love and grace, understanding, wisdom and union with the Unending One.

O Root of Jesse, Come.

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O WISDOM

O WISDOMWORD OF ETERNAL BEINGYOU REACH FROM ONE END OF EARTH TO THE OTHERWITH PROVIDENCE AND TENDERNESSCOME AND TEACH US TO LIVE IN YOUR WAYS.Each year I yearn for this day when at the hour of vespers we sing the first of the O Antiphons preceding Mary…

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O WISDOM



O WISDOM

WORD OF ETERNAL BEING

YOU REACH FROM ONE END OF EARTH TO THE OTHER

WITH PROVIDENCE AND TENDERNESS

COME AND TEACH US TO LIVE IN YOUR WAYS.

Each year I yearn for this day when at the hour of vespers we sing the first of the O Antiphons preceding Mary’s prayer in her pregnancy, the Magnificat. Each day the divine child she carries in her womb and in her heart is invoked by a different name leading up to December 23rd and the most popular verse, “O come, O come Emmanuel,” really the most paradoxical statement one can imagine because it would mean, “Come, God, who is already with us.”

In the past I wrote meditations each year as I contemplated these beautiful names of the Holy One. Then one year I slipped into the silence of awe. No more words. Until now. This morning I felt urged to delve once again into the antiphons hoping to discover there a meaning I might hold to in these present times. Whether we agree with the trajectory of these times or not, everywhere I look I hear whispers or cries of the heart. Uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalenceall describe the heart that is aware. The whole earth is involved, from Washington to Aleppo, from the melting glaciers in the Himalayas to the flooding islands of the Pacific. Every focus of our human endeavors is affected, every discipline of thought, every tradition of belief. Where is Wisdom?

Wisdom is in the depths. We search for her, dig deep into the ground of being to unearth her jewels. Wisdom springs dancing from the Eternal, and Wisdom’s play is the spiral of creation, of universes evolving. Deep and Wide is Wisdom. Wisdom unites. Wisdom is ever compassionate and forgiving. Wisdom holds opposites in balance. When the humble and simple open the door of the heart, Wisdom enters.

Though Wisdom is not present in war of any kind, she is within the hearts of all who struggle, who strive, who mourn, who suffer violence, whose victimization results in acts of violence from which their own suffering increases. And Wisdom mourns, weeps for the suffering world while standing in the core of our carnage. Nothing that we do fails to penetrate the Divine Heart.

Our world stands in dire need of her. O Wisdom, Come.

Today is the 80th birthday of Pope Francis. This coincidence made me sit up and take notice. This pope of simplicity and inclusion and gentle love was born on the day celebrating Wisdom. That makes bells ring in my head! Happy Birthday, Papa Francis!

(to wish him a Happy Birthday: [email protected])

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