1 A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout[a] from his roots. 2 The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in fearing the Lord. He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay. 4 He will judge the needy with righteousness, and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land. He will strike the violent[b] with the rod of his mouth; by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be the belt around his hips, and faithfulness the belt around his waist. 6 The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed[c] together, and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow and the bear will graze. Their young will lie down together, and a lion will eat straw like an ox. 8 A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole; toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den. 9 They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, just as the water covers the sea. 10 On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious.
Few carols have the ability to touch me as deeply as the great Latin hymn Veni, Veni or O Come, O Come, Emmanuel; written almost twelve centuries ago it remains a moving tribute to roles of Christ. What most do not realize is that the tradition behind the song is far older. The seven verses of the hymn preserve the seven titles of Jesus, which are to be used for meditation each night between December 17th and 23rd:
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O God with Us).
Each of these simple phrases has a short refrain that is to be said on its night, which is to help center that evening’s meditation. These phases are meant to help us remember who Jesus is, and how we can relate to him. So often at Christmas we think of this chubby baby boy sleeping quietly on some hay; the antiphons help to remind us that the advent of Jesus means the arrival of an individual far above us in scope and power. He is one of us, yet he is wholly different far grander than we are and worthy of our adoration as Lord and King.
It is also meaningful that the seven titles are drawn from Old Testament references, uniting the birth of Jesus to the historical expectations of God’s people. These verses help us maintain a connection to God’s people throughout the ages, even those prior to Jesus’ birth. The solemn mood of these verses helps to calm our heads and hearts during a chaotic season of festivity. They remind us that the deep prayers of the heart focus on deep interaction with God.
“O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.”