O Radix, A Third Advent Reflection and Sonnet

The third Advent antiphon,in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word,  O Radix, calls on Christ as the root, an image I find particularly compelling and helpful. The collect is referring to the image of he ‘tree of Jesse the family tree which leads to David, and ultimately to Christ as the ‘son of David, but for me the title radix, goes deeper, as a good root should. It goes deep down into the ground of our being, the good soil of creation. God in Christ, is I believe, the root of all goodness, wherever it is found and in whatsoever culture, or with whatever names it fruits and flowers, a sound tree cannot bear bad fruit said Christ, who also said, I am the vine, you are the branches. I have tried to express some of my feelings for Christ as root and vine more elliptically in my song the Green Man, but here I do it more directly in my sonnet on the third advent antiphon. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above was created by Lancia Smith. you can see this and more on her  excellent Website Cultivating the True the Good and the Beautiful.. You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

Tree of jese

the tree of Jesse a carving in the Louvre

O Radix

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing
as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer

O Radix

All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,

Rose from a root invisible to all.

We knew the virtues once of every weed,

But, severed from the roots of ritual,

We surf the surface of a wide-screen world

And find no virtue in the virtual.

We shrivel on the edges of a wood

Whose heart we once inhabited in love,

Now we have need of you, forgotten Root

The stock and stem of every living thing

Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,

For now is winter, now is withering

Unless we let you root us deep within,

Under the ground of being, graft us in.


Filed under christianity, Poems

17 responses to “O Radix, A Third Advent Reflection and Sonnet

  1. The images – deep hidden seed, root invisible to all, the wide-screen world, the sacred grove, root us deep within, under the ground of being – play with each other and draw us deep within and down. Thank you!

  2. Reblogged this on VIEWS from the Edge and commented:
    Malcolm Guite poem today roots us deep within. Enjoy.

  3. tphillman

    The severance from the deep roots of the world and from the spiritual you evoke immediately reminded me of the severance of meaning and reality in Tolkien’s Mythopoiea:

    Though now long estranged,
    man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
    Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
    and keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,
    his world-dominion by creative act

    Do you see a link, as he did, between creativity, or perhaps I should say ‘subcreativity’, and connection to/estrangement from the ‘root’?

  4. Pingback: O Radix: to become more rooted | Unforced Rhythms

  5. Reblogged this on A Pilgrim in Narnia and commented:
    I have referred to Malcolm Guite before, a Christian poet, musician and thinker who has been adding his wise and creative voice to Inklings scholarship for some time now. In the advent season, where poetry comes to us more easily, I thought I would introduce his poetry blog, and this Christmas season reflection.

  6. Malcolm, today’s devotional in your lovely Advent book, Waiting on the Word, touched me deeply, especially this… “We surf the surface of a wide-screen world and find no virtue in the virtual.”

  7. Charles Huttar

    I stole (?) your sonnet “Refugee” for the top of my 2015 Christmas letter (which fewer than 100 will see; and not commercially used) and next to it I put a simple picture of the Flight into Egypt. I added this comment:
    Malcolm Guite’s sonnet reminds us of a part of the Christmas story that it’s tempting to forget. Rightly we delight in the infant God in the manger, already (in painters’ imagining) lighting up the world about him; we “thank God for his indescribable gift.” Yet already, fleeing from a fearful Herod’s terrorism, he shares and bears the sufferings of many, down to today. Dare we, though also fearful, turn them (him) away?
    (larger font, bold) May your Christmas be merry and bright, and all your New Year be compassionate.

    Thank you, Dr. Guite

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds

    Thank you! I’m glad Brenton has brought me to this!

    It reminds in general of David Jones (I don’t remember if he ever works with this or any O Antiphon, in particular).

    It also reminds me of the carol in the Ritson Manuscript, about which I learned from an 18 December 2012 post by A Clerk of Oxford (a great O Antiphon lover and illuminator!).

    (Were either of those in your mind, or is this just in the proper order of things, like wood juxtaposed with wood in Charles Williams or work with work in Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent”?)

    • malcolmguite

      I am keen on Jones and his Vexilla Regis as well as the Anglo-Saxon dream of the rood both influenced this poem. I also love Eliot essay to which you refer!

  9. David Llewellyn Dodds

    Is the “Refugee” sonnet to which Charles Huttar refers the one found elsewhere on this site?

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf had a very interesting (though that’s too bland a word) quotation from Caesarius of Arles and discussion of it on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which (to my thinking) ties in with your ‘O Radix’: e.g., in discussing the clause “primas erumpentes ecclesiae gemmas quaedam persecutionis pruina decoxit” about gemma not being just “gem”, but also being able to be read “bud, blossom”, and decoquo being “to reduce by boiling” and decoctum used by Pliny for a medicinal drink. Virtues ‘blossoming’ into becoming salutarily known again through terrible (but not exclusively terrible) ‘decoction’!

  10. Pingback: Advent Diary – 19th December 2015 | twiff13

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