Saturday, August 8, 2015

Was a Jesse Tree always called a Jesse Tree?

I keep using the terms Jesse Tree or Tree of Jesse but that is a relatively recent term for the pictorial design of the ancestors of Jesus.  The term “Jesse Tree” seems to date from the 18th century.  The earlier term is Stirps Jesse from Stirps Jesse virgam produxit virgaque florem et super hunc florem requiescit spiritus almus, a response chanted during the Mass for the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on September 8.  (Translation: The Tree brought forth a twig and the twig a flower that rests on nourishing spirit.)  This tied together the idea of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the symbolic rod of Jesse, and Jesus, her son, as the flower.  Note the play upon virgo (virgin) and virga (rod or stem). 

Another version of the Stirps Jesse:

Stirps Jesse florigeram germinavit virgulam et in flore spiritus quiescit paraclitus.

Fructum profert virgule per quem vivunt secula.
Stirpis ex davitice virga dicta mistice que sic et sic floruit et que florem protulit.

Virga jesse virgo est Dei mater flos filius eius est cuius Pater, huic flori preter morem edito canunt chori sanctorum ex debito:

Laus et jubilation potestas cum imperiosit sine termino celorum domino.

Freely translated:

The stump of Jesse will bring forth a twig bearing a flower, and the flowers lives in the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit mystically brings forth the twig called the Virgin from all the living generations of the lineage of David.

Who so, who flourished, who brought forth the flower?  The shoot of Jesse is the Virgin, the Mother of God.  The flower is her son, Son of the Father.

Because this flower was born in an unusual way, we duly sing the chorus of the saints.

Praise and jubilation to the Lord of heaven whose power is without end.

This trope is attributed to Bishop Fulbert of Chartres (Bishop from1006-1029).  The trope was added to Benedicamus Domino (Let us bless the Lord).  YouTube has several chanted versions of these lines. Just search “Stirps Jesse.”  I will come back to Bishop Fulbert who championed the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and was important in the development of Mariology during the Middle Ages.

Notre Dame de la Belle Verriere, Chartres Cathedral
Delaport Window #14. dated to abt. 1150. Mostly original except for face of the Virgin.
Photo credit: Holly Hayes

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