Monday, September 20, 2010

The Tree of Jesse

This beautiful icon was painted by the hand of Nicholas Papas and can be purchased  from Come & See Icons found  here.

Family trees, we all got 'em.  Even Jesus has a family tree.  The following is from the Come & See Icon website and describes the above icon which is entitled "The Tree of Jesse" which, with  paint and wood, describes what the Scriptures have to say about the coming of The Christ.

This icon depicts the many prophecies of the Virgin birth of Christ.  There are twelve Old Testament prophets, shown holding things that reveal their identity and the prophecy they foretold of the Theotokos and the virgin birth of Christ.  In the top row, from left to right: St. Daniel, whose scroll reads: "The stone was cut out of the Mountain without hands" (Daniel 2:45); St. Moses holding the bush that was burning, yet not consumed (Exodus 3:2-4); St. David, whose scroll reads: "Arise O Lord into thy rest: Thou and the ark of thy strength." (Psalm 132:8); St. Isaiah holding tongs with live coals (Isaiah 6:6); St. Jeremiah, whose scroll reads: "He was seen upon earth and conversed with men." (Baruch 3:37); St. Samuel holding a throne referring to St. Nathan's prophecy to King David whom St. Samuel had anointed (2 Samuel 7:13-16).  In the bottom row, from left to right:  St. Habakkuk holding the overshadowed Mountain that is the Virgin (Habakkuk 3:3); St. Micah, whose scroll reads: "He is come unto the gate of my people." (Micah 1:9); St. Gideon holding a fleece: "As dew upon the fleece hast Thou descended into the womb of the Virgin, O Christ" (Judges 6:37-38); St. Ezekiel, whose scroll reads: "This gate shall be shut, It shall not be opened." (Ezekiel 44:2); St. Amos holding an ark referring to the Virgin serving as the Tabernacle of Christ (Amos 9:11); Prophet Balaam, whose scroll reads: "There shall come a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall arise" (Numbers 24:17).  Enthroned in the center of the tree sits the Holy Virgin Mary.  At the foot of the tree lays St. Jesse asleep.  Jesse is portrayed asleep, to tell us in a way that we know his righteous character not so much by the works done in his own lifetime, so much as by the righteous line that proceded from him. That line which started with David and culminated with the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ our Savior.  We don't know much about Jesse, other than that he was the father of King David, who was "a man after God's own heart." But the Scripture honors him calling Jesus Christ the "root of Jesse". Romans 15:12

This root of Jesse, Jesus' family tree can be found in two places in the New Testament, Luke 3:23-38 here and Matthew 1:1-16 here

The Matthew passage is read in the Orthodox Church on the Sunday before Christmas, which is called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers.  This particular passage is quite fascinating in that it mentions women.  The Orthodox Study Bible notes this: "The mention of women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba) is unusual.  Each one was either a Gentile or a sinner.  The inclusion of these three women declares God's graciousness and prefigures the calling of the Gentiles into the Church.  It also underscores the role of women in God's plan of salvation and anticipates the special place of the Virgin Mary in that plan." (pg. 1266 footnote)

Personally, I like the fact that Jesus' family tree is really no different than my own, it contains saints and sinners alike,  and all of whom are equally important in making me who I am today. 

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