In today's “O Antiphon” we contemplate the mighty Root of Jesse, in whose presence kings stand silent and whom nations worship. From the stump of Jesse, a new shoot sprouts forth, one that is to become a mightier king than any before him. Although this stump of Jesse seems barren, never destined to produce any more kings, a message of hope is given through the prophet Isaiah: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.” St. Irenaeus leads us to reflect, in today's Office of Readings, how this mighty King took
on human flesh, willing to lower Himself so much in order that we may be raised so high as to share in His glory. St. Irenaeus encourages us, in the words of Isaiah, to take courage, despite our weakness, and to look to our God approaching to bring us aid. Though we are feeble, the man who relies on the Lord's strength to transform his sinful flesh will be clothed in glory which, as St. Irenaeus says, “will grow ever brighter until he takes on the likeness of the one who died for him.” Let us call to the mighty Root of Jesse to come to set us free.
Reading The treatise of St Irenaeus "Against Heresies"
The operation of the redeeming Incarnation
God is man’s glory. Man is the vessel which receives God’s action and all his wisdom and power.
Just as a doctor is judged in his care for the sick, so God is revealed in his conduct with men. That is Paul’s reason for saying: God has made the whole world prisoner of unbelief that he may have mercy on all. He was speaking of man, who was disobedient to God, and cast off from immortality, and then found mercy, receiving through the Son of God the adoption he brings.
If man, without being puffed up or boastful, has a right belief regarding created things and their divine Creator, who, having given them being, holds them all in his power, and if man perseveres in God’s love, and in obedience and gratitude to him, he will receive greater glory from him. It will be a glory which will grow ever brighter until he takes on the likeness of the one who died for him.
He it was who took on the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin and rid the flesh of sin, as now condemned. He wanted to invite man to take on his likeness, appointing man an imitator of God, establishing man in a way of life in obedience to the Father that would lead to the vision of God, and endowing man with power to receive the Father. He is the Word of God who dwelt with man and became the Son of Man to open the way for man to receive God, for God to dwell with man, according to the will of the Father.
For this reason the Lord himself gave as the sign of our salvation, the one who was born of the Virgin, Emmanuel. It was the Lord himself who saved them, for of themselves they had no power to be saved. For this reason Paul speaks of the weakness of man, and says: I know that no good dwells in my flesh, meaning that the blessing of our salvation comes not from us but from God. Again, he says: I am a wretched man; who will free me from this body doomed to die? Then he speaks of a liberator, thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord.
Isaiah says the same: Hands that are feeble, grow strong! Knees that are weak, take courage! Hearts that are faint, grow strong! Fear not; see, our God is judgement and he will repay. He himself will come and save us. He means that we could not be saved of ourselves but only with God’s help.
O Antiphon of the Day:
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
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.
Isaiah had prophesied:
"A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1
"On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:10