Root of Jesse (Artful Devotion)

Tree of Jesse (Chartres Cathedral) (full)
The Tree of Jesse, 12th century. Stained glass window (Bay 49), Chartres Cathedral, France. Photo: Painton Cowen.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
. . .

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

—Isaiah 11:1–5, 10

Tree of Jesse (Chartres)
The bottom panel depicts Nahum, Jesse, and Joel. This and all the following detail photos are by Dr. Stuart Whatling.
Tree of Jesse (Ezekiel, David, Hosea)
Ezekiel, David, Hosea
Tree of Jesse (Isaiah, Solomon, Micah)
Isaiah, Solomon, Micah
Tree of Jesse (Moses, Generic King, Balaam)
Moses, generic king, Balaam
Tree of Jesse (Samuel, generic king, Amos)
Samuel, generic king, Amos
Tree of Jesse (Zechariah, Mary, Daniel)
Zechariah, the Virgin Mary, Daniel
Tree of Jesse (Habakkuk, Christ, Zephaniah)
Habakkuk, Christ with the Seven Gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, per Is. 11:2), Zephaniah

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SONG: “O Root of Jesse” | Text: Latin original from the sixth through eighth centuries, English translation from the Church of England’s Common Worship liturgy | Music by Ole Schützler (b. 1976) | Performed by the Junger Kammerchor Rhein-Neckar (Rhine-Neckar Youth Chamber Choir), under the direction of Mathias Rickert, on Advent (2014)

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

English:
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.

“O Radix Jesse” (O Root of Jesse) is one of the seven O Antiphons, names for Christ that are sung during Advent. (The others are O Wisdom, O Lord, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of Nations, and O God-with-Us.) Their precise origin is unknown, but their use in the eighth century is substantiated.

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Chartres Cathedral is “the high point of French Gothic art” (UNESCO) and one of my must-sees before I die. Its portals boast many exquisite figural sculptures, and its interior is renowned for, among other things, its stained glass windows. The Tree of Jesse, showing the royal lineage of Jesus, is one of three large, rounded lancet windows at the west end—the other two depicting the Life of Christ (center) and the Passion of Christ.

(Related posts: “Savior-King [Artful Devotion]”“Jesus as the Root/Shoot/Branch of Jesse”)

Chartres Cathedral with Tree of Jesse window

Lancet windows, Chartres
Photo: E. Vandenbroucque

This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, cycle A, click here.