, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

astumpofjesseThe Book of Isaiah is full of prophecies that chronicle events predicted for the life and salvation of the Hebrew people. They are not easily understood without a commentary as Isaiah often uses images like those in today’s lectionary where he says that “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse…” which is interpreted as a recognition that the Messiah would be descended from royalty (the family of Jesse, father of David). But Isaiah was writing about a time when the fortunes of the house of David would be at their worst, thus the reference to the “stump of Jesse.” An interesting point of the commentary was that of the “shoot” as different from simply speaking of growth out of the stump as a branch. A shoot, notes the commentator, would be slender and insignificant, in contrast to the girth of the stump, thus indicating that the fruit would come from one person at a time of humiliation and obscurity. Thus, the surprise of a Messiah like Jesus.

One could spend a lifetime studying the Book of Isaiah. Even those of us whose knowledge of the text is sketchy at best recognize images or snippets that appear in other places, as the most familiar Advent hymn – O Come, O Come Emmanuel – reminds us with its titles for the long-awaited Messiah. Additionally anyone who was ever prepared for the sacrament of Confirmation in Christianity has probably memorized the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, taken directly from today’s first reading of chapter 11 of Isaiah. I learned them in sixth grade and was happy as an adult catechist to teach a slight change in translation that made me better understand such “gifts” when fear of the Lord morphed into wonder and awe in God’s presence. I was also glad to know and teach that it was a lifelong living into my faith that matured  those gifts in me rather than a direct transmission expected immediately at the age of 12. If that had been true, I reasoned, I had definitely failed!

Here’s the list. See what you can claim at this point in your growing faith: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, right judgment, courage, reverence and wonder and awe in God’s presence. (Isaiah 11:1-2) Don’t forget that we’re all still growing!