O Root of Jesse, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
It is curious that today’s antiphon echos the prophecy of Micah and others who proclaimed that the Messiah would be a descendent of David, or, as it is indicated in this prayer, a descendent of the father of David. The curiosity comes from the prophecy and the reality. Or more accurately still, the prophecy, its interpretation and the reality.
When Jesus’s public ministry brought him before the leaders of the people, the Roman authorities and the religious leaders, it was not they that were silent, but Jesus. It was the Roman soldiers in sardonic form that “bowed down” to the messiah, weaving a crown for his head, dressing the beaten young man in royal purple and nailing the title above his head: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
The interpretation of the Israelite prophecy of the coming messiah was not at all the way things played out. God is a God of surprises and humility subordinated earthly glory, lowliness is raised above earthly triumph and self-offering (sacrifice) is the way of God. Yet, somewhere along the way the Christ became revered by much of the world — civil and monarchical leaders included — after the Resurrection. But has this prophecy since been fulfilled?
What do religious and church leaders do to honor the King of kings and the Prince of peace today? In what way do multiple crusades glorify the Prince of peace? In what way does the discrimination of people in a “land of freedom” and the “home of the brave,” because of race, gender or sexual orientation display the worship of the crucified God and the silence of kings (or presidents, or senators, or representatives…) in the presence of God-made-man? What about the majority of religious and civil leaders, when the names Jesus Christ or God are invoked, is different from the rulers of the messiah’s own day, when the prophecy of Micah appeared to be a joke?
Perhaps today we might strive to bring that prophetic call to reality, to live as though God’s dwelling among us as one like us truly changed the course of history. Perhaps our lives can be a sign raised before all and allow, through our words and actions, us to come to the aid of others.