The “O” antiphon for this day is “O radix Jesse”, which is freely translated as “O Flower of Jesse’s stem”.
It was believed that the Promised One would be descended from David, the shepherd boy who became king (2 Samuel 7, 16). And so his ancestry was traced back to Jesse, the father of David (Luke 3, 31-32)
The Jesse Tree, or the family tree of Jesus, has been depicted in many forms of Christian art, from stained glass windows, to wall paintings, illuminated manuscripts, even floor tiles and embroidery.
Typically the image shows Jesse reclining or asleep, with the trunk of the tree or vine emerging from his side. As the tree ascends, interlocking branches to either side emerge with figures representing the ancestors of the Promised One, ending with Mary and then Christ at the top.
There are 43 generations between Jesse and Jesus, but the number of figures on the Jesse Tree varies greatly, depending upon the amount of space available for the design.
The Jesse ancestry is expressed musically in the lovely 16th century German Christmas carol, “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”, translated as, “Lo how a rose e’er blooming”.
“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11, 1)
“On that day the root of Jesse shall be as a rallying point for the nations, and his dwelling shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11, 10)