For each of the ancient “O Antiphon” prayers in this week preceding Christmas, I will be offering prayers and a variation on an Old Fashioned.
Today’s O Antiphon: “O Root of Jesse”
Today’s antiphon title can sound strange to modern ears, but the “Root of Jesse” uses the imagery of a family tree, specifically that of the kingly line of David whose father was Jesse. Isaiah says this line will continue in the Messiah even though it seemed cut down. Today’s prayer and readings emphasize that the Messiah will spring up from this family tree even though it seemed like just a stump. He will save us, draw all people to himself, and be a King for all.
Today’s Prayer & Scripture
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.
The text today is Isaiah 11:1 and 10: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots…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.”
For further reflection, read Romans 15:1-13, where the apostle Paul quotes these verses to encourage the Roman church to move past racism, live in unity and peace, and to emphasize how Jesus’ way of ruling as king is in service and invitation rather than violence and division.
The Drink: Family Tree O’Fashioned
- 2oz Potato Vodka
- .5oz Cola Syrup
- 2 Dashes Rhubarb Bitters
- 1 Dash Celery Bitters
- Cherry Garnish
Stir ingredients and pour over fresh ice. Garnish with two cocktail cherries.
Today, our O’Fashioneds start getting a little weirder, with a Vodka Old Fashioned, using all root and root vegetable(ish) ingredients and flavors (get it?). This cocktail tastes exactly like a cherry coke.
Use whatever vodka you have. The cola syrup was homemade from coke. You can find recipes online. I used Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters and Celery Bitters. The latter gave it a little more earthiness, but it’s subtle and not necessary.
Honestly, before the bitters, the drink tastes just like flat coke. Just add whatever bitters you think would make a good flavored coke and you’re good to go. These bitters just went with the antiphon.
A Little Deeper (If You Want)
This messianic title is odd and multi-layered, but beautiful. It comes from an unexpected (and seemingly contradictory) pair of prophetic verses in Isaiah about the Messiah’s family tree.
At the time this part of Isaiah was written (and even more so at the time of Jesus), the family line of David–the son of Jesse–was in shambles. It seemed that the family tree had been cut down to its root and destroyed for good.
One verse says the Messiah will be a branch springing from the stump of Jesse’s family tree that everyone thought was cut down and dead. The other says this Messiah is the root itself of that family tree! This antiphon helps us remember that Jesus existed before all things and is the one through whom all things were made and God’s people were chosen, meaning he can be both the source of the promise and its flowering fulfillment.
[image credit: “Root of Jesse” by Sister Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ]