Catholicism, Catholic, Traditional Catholicism, Catholic Church

``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," the father of King David,  per the prophecy of Isaias 11:1:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, 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."

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.
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.). Tjhough the symbols used can differ from family to family, the last seven symbols should refer to the titles of Christ used in the O Antiphons sung on the Golden Nights.

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 hanged on a small, literal tabletop-sized tree, or on a branch brought in from outside. They can be hanged on small artificial trees made of wood or metals, or on two-dimensional wooden trees. Some might place them on the family's otherwise undecorated Christmas tree which will be ornamented with Christmas decorations and lighted on Christmas Eve.

The symbolic ornaments -- which can vary from family to family -- can be storebought or homemade -- for example, painted onto wooden rounds, made of 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 or felt, etc. Gorgeous paintings and graphics could be scanned, printed out, and decoupaged 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 make 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, with Christ (or a symbold of Christ) at the apex.

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

December 1


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

Creation sun, moon, stars, animals, earth; symbols of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water)
(Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-4)

December 2


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

Adam and Eve Adam & Eve; Tree of Life
(Genesis 2:7-9, 18-24)

December 3


a man preparing to be sacrificed on an altar, ram, bundle of wood
(Genesis 22:1-14)

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

December 4


man dreaming of a ladder to Heaven, head upon a rock
(Genesis 25:1-34; 28:10-15)

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

December 5


man holding the tablets with the Commandments (Exodus 20)

Abraham knife
(Genesis 12:1-3)

December 6


a man being martyred by a saw

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

December 7


tree stump with flower
(1 Kings 16:1-13)

Jacob ladder, man sleeping with head on a rock
(Genesis 25:1-34; 28:10-15)

December 8


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

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

December 9


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

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

December 10


a man among the lions
(Daniel 14)

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

December 11


a man holding a scroll

Jesse tree stump with flower
(1 Kings 16:1-13)

December 12


Eucharist and incense
(Malachias 1:10-11)

David slingshot, harp
(1 Kings 17:12-51)

December 13

The Cumean Sibyl

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

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

December 14

The Erythraean Sibyl

a woman holding a scroll or writing on leaves

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

December 15

The Tiburtine Sibyl

a woman holding a book and/or talking to the Emperor Augustus about the coming of Christ

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)

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

The Golden Nights Begin

December 17

Christ as Sapientia

the Eye of God, a triangle or trefoil to symbolize the Trinity, the word Logos in Greek, oil lamp
(Isaias 28:29; Wisdom 11:2-3)

December 18

Christ as Adonai

the burning bush, the tablets of the Ten Commandments
(Isaias 11:4-5, 33:22)

December 19

Christ as Radix Jesse

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

December 20

Christ as Clavis David

(Isaias 22:22, Isaias 9:6)

December 21

Christ as Oriens

rising sun
(Isaias 9:2)

December 22

Christ as Rex Gentium

scepter, crown
(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, the Star of Bethlehem
(Luke 2:1-20)


I've gathered some graphics for you to consider using when making Jesse Tree ornaments, and include them on the following pages. Each graphic is 800X800 pixels.

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. This well-known "Star of David" wasn't a popular symbol of Jewry until the 18th c. when it was adopted by the Rothschild family (though it was known before then in post-Temple Judaism and is found in a few synagogue decorations). This symbol is a hexagram with 6 points, 6 equilateral triangles, forming a 6-sided hexagon interiorly and is not actually a Davidic symbol; it's 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.

An aside: The tomb of Jesse (and his grandmother Ruth) can be visited in the Tel Rumeida section of Hebron, about 19 miles outside of Jerusalem.