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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Jesse Trees


 
 
A Jesse Tree is a depiction of the genealogy of Jesus designed in such a way as to show that He springs from the "root of Jesse"  per the prophecy of Isaias 11:1:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse [David's father], and a flower shall rise up out of his root.

This prophecy was recalled by St. Paul, and on the first Sunday of Advent, we remember his words with the Epistle reading of Romans 15:4-13, which reads, in part:

Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God. For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him, all ye people. And again Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse; and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope.

All throughout Advent, we will hear references to Christ's ancestors in the Mass readings.

The artistic depiction of Christ's royal genealogical heritage is very old; the West facade of Chartres Cathedral, dated to ca. A.D. 1150, for example, has a lancet window that depicts the "Jesse Tree" (see stained glass image below).

Some Jesse Trees depict the 28 generations listed in Matthew -- starting with Jesse and ending in Jesus. Others depict representatives from that genealogy (Jesse, David, Solomon, etc.) as do most medieval Jesse Trees.
Medieval German Jesse Tree
The medieval German manuscript at right depicts only 6 elements in the Jesse Tree: Jesse, two prophets with scrolls filled in with verses concerning Christ and His Mother, two prophets with scrolls with no verses, and, toppping it all off, the Virgin holding her Son.

Most modern Jesse Trees use symbols which summarize the Old Testament and show, basically, the history of the world up to Christ (Adam and Eve, Noe, Abraham, etc.).

A Jesse Tree in the home, then is simply the Advent custom of using a collection of symbols that portray the fact that Jesus has come, as predicted, from the root of Jesse. These symbols can be hung on a small, literal tabletop-sized tree, or on a branch brought in from outside. They can be hung on small artificial trees made of wood or metals, or on two-dimensional wooden trees.

The symbolic ornaments -- which can vary from family to family -- can be storebought or homemade -- for example, painted onto wooden rounds, wood carved into shapes, embroidered onto linen rounds which are then sewn onto round hoops to hold their shape, painted on paper, cut out from cardboard, etc. Gorgeous paintings and graphics could be scanned, printed out, and glued onto wood and shellacked. Or they can be made, like Christmas Tree ornaments, out of "Baker's Clay."


Some families add ornaments to their Jesse Trees one each day, starting on 1 December to time with the Advent Calendar and O Antiphons (24 ornaments); others add them all at once on 1 December. Some make Jesse trees that stress prophecy, with symbols of the Old Testament Prophets and the Sibyls; others makes ones that stress the history of the world from creation. Whatever works for your family is fine, but whatever you do, and whatever symbols you use, the point should be to show that Christ springs from the root of Jesse, per Isaias's prophecy, and with the Infant Christ being held by Mary at the apex.
 


Chartres Cathedral Jesse Tree window

Suggested Symbols for a 24-Day Jesse Tree Stressing Prophecy & Typology

December 1

Melchisedech

a man offering bread and wine
(Genesis 14:18)

December 2

Abraham

a man holding a knife
(Genesis 12:1-3)

December 3

Isaac

a man preparing to be sacrificed on an altar/ ram
(Genesis 22:1-14)

December 4

Jacob

man dreaming of a ladder to Heavenr
(Genesis 25:1-34; 28:10-15)

December 5

Moses

man holding the tablets with the Commandments
(Exodus 20)

December 6

Isaias

a man being martyred by a saw
(the source for the story of Isaias having been martyred
by having been "sawn in sunder" is the non-canonical "The Ascension of Isaias")

December 7

Jesse

tree stump with flower. The classic depiction is of Jesse lying on his side with the branch of Jesus's "family tree" growing from his side.
(1 Kings 16:1-13)

December 8

David

a man playing a harp
(1 Kings 17:12-51)

December 9

Ezechiel

a man seeing the four living creatures/symbols of the Evangelists
(Ezechiel 1)

December 10

Daniel

a man among the lions
(Daniel 14)

December 11

Jeremias

a man holding a scroll

December 12

Malachias

Eucharist and incense
(Malachias 1:10-11)

December 13

The Cumean Sybil

very old Italian-Greek woman in a cave surrounded with leaves she writes on, or a jar holding her voice

December 14

The Erythraean Sybil

a woman holding a scroll or writing on leaves

December 15

The Tiburtine Sybil

a woman holding a book and/or talking to Augustus about the coming One

December 16

John the Baptist

scallop shell, locusts, honey, tall slim Cross
(Mark 1:1-8)

The Golden Nights Begin...

December 17

Christ as Sapientia

oil lamp
(Isaias 28:29; Wisdom 11:2-3)

December 18

Christ as Adonai

crown
(Isaias 11:4-5, 33:22)

December 19

Christ as Radix Jesse

flower
(Isaias 11:1,10, Micheas 5:1)

December 20

Christ as Clavis David

key
(Isaias 22:22, Isaias 9:6)

December 21

Christ as Oriens

rising sun
(Isaias 9:2)

December 22

Christ as Rex Gentium

scepter
(Isaias 9:7, 2:4)

December 23

Christ as Emmanuel

Chalice and Host
(Isaias 7:14; 33:22)

Christmas Eve

The Nativity

Mary holding the Infant Jesus,
with Star of Bethlehem over their heads
(Luke 2:1-20)


 
 

Suggested Symbols for a 24-Day Jesse Tree Stressing the History of the World

December 1

Creation

sun, moon, stars, animals, earth
(Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-4)

December 2

Adam and Eve

Tree of Life, man, woman
(Genesis 2:7-9, 18-24)

December 3

The Fall of Man

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, serpent, bitten apple
(Genesis 3:1-7 and 23-24)

December 4

Noe

ark, animals, dove, rainbow
(Genesis 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17, 23, 24; 8:1, 6-22)

December 5

Abraham

knife
(Genesis 12:1-3)

December 6

Isaac

bundle of wood, altar, ram
(Genesis 22:1-14)

December 7

Jacob

ladder
(Genesis 25:1-34; 28:10-15)

December 8

Joseph

well, multi-colored tunic
(Genesis 25:1-34; 28:10-15)

December 9

Moses

baby in basket among reeds, Commandments
(Exodus 2:1-10)

December 10

Samuel

lamp, temple
(1 Kings 2:21, 3:1-20)

December 11

Jesse

tree stump with flower. The classic depiction is of Jesse lying on his side with the branch of Jesus's "family tree" growing from his side.
(1 Kings 16:1-13)

December 12

David

harp
(1 Kings 17:12-51)

December 13

Solomon

temple, scales of Justice,
sword and baby
(III Kings 3:5-14, 16-28)

December 14

Joseph

carpenter's tools, flowering staff
(Matthew 1:18-25)

December 15

Our Lady

lily, crown of stars, pierced heart, roses
(Genesis 3:15, Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38)

December 16

John the Baptist

scallop shell, locusts, honey, tall slim Cross
(Mark 1:1-8)

The Golden Nights Begin...

December 17

Christ as Sapientia

oil lamp
(Isaias 28:29; Wisdom 11:2-3)

December 18

Christ as Adonai

crown
(Isaias 11:4-5, 33:22)

December 19

Christ as Radix Jesse

flower
(Isaias 11:1,10, Micheas 5:1)

December 20

Christ as Clavis David

key
(Isaias 22:22, Isaias 9:6)

December 21

Christ as Oriens

rising sun
(Isaias 9:2)

December 22

Christ as Rex Gentium

scepter
(Isaias 9:7, 2:4)

December 23

Christ as Emmanuel

Chalice and Host
(Isaias 7:14; 33:22)

Christmas Eve

The Nativity

Mary holding the Infant Jesus,
with Star of Bethlehem over their heads
(Luke 2:1-20)

 
  
Note: I've seen some pre-fab Jesse Tree Kits that use a so-called "Star of David" (also called "Magen David" or "Shield of David") as a symbol. The "Star of David" -- which wasn't a popular symbol of Jewry until the 18th c. when it was adopted by the Rothschilds (though it was known before then in post-Temple Judaism and is found in a few synagogue decorations) -- is actually a hexagram with 6 points, 6 equilateral triangles, forming a 6-sided hexagon interiorly. It is the ancient star of Remphan (Moloch , Chiun, or Saturn) and Ashtoreth mentioned in Amos 5:26 and Acts 7, and one of the most powerful symbols used in Freemasonry, Satanism, and the occult. For a true symbol of David, use a harp or a crown; for Solomon, use a temple or a crown. (The term "Solomon's Shield" is often used to refer to the Star of David, but Solomon's Shield" is actually a pentagram.)
 

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