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.
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:
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.
Advent, we will hear references to Christ's ancestors in the Mass
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
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
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