O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign
Before the peoples, before whom all
Kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage:
Come quickly to deliver us
Imagine you were standing before some great king. A man who wielded complete power. A man whose every whim was obeyed, whose pleasure was life and whose wroth, death. You might find yourself a little nervous. You might find yourself gone temporarily mute.
Well that is how earthly kings, all human beings are before Christ. This antiphon grabs up 4 different sections of Isaiah’s prophecy and beautifully compresses them into one earnest prayer. He is the “root of Jesse.” that’s from Isaiah 11. That is, he is the source of Jesse. But of course He is also, as the same verses teach, the branch that grows from Jesse’s stump. For He is the great son of Jesse’s great son David. To Him the Lord God will give the throne of His Father David!
And He is an ensign. That’s from Isaiah 11:10. An ensign is a banner, a rallying point for an army in the midst of battle. That ensign is His cross. Jesus says, “I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all people to Himself.” And so Jew and Gentile alike will come to do him homage. The last verses of Isaiah 52 speak about how kings will be mute before Him. And Psalm 2 tells how the kings of the earth better “kiss the Son lest he be angry.”
This strong one. The root and offspring of Jesse. David’s Son yet David’s Lord. King of Kings. He is coming to deliver! He is coming to take His cross and crown. To bleed His precious blood. For you. And through that cross to gather you to Himself.
Come quickly, O root of Jesse!