By Claire Bordelon
When meeting someone for the first time, it’s fairly common practice for Louisianians to ask, “who’s your mama?” In fact, there’s a pretty successful line of cookbooks centered on that very theme, for those of you who are interested. What then proceeds is usually a litany of last names, hometowns, and a catalogue of marriages and births that have taken place, to which someone inevitably responds that yes, they see the family resemblance: “you have your mama’s eyes,” or “that’s the [insert family name] nose, right there.”
I mention this particular quirk of Louisiana because it stands so clearly aligned with today’s O Antiphon, O Radix Jesse, which focuses on this same notion of familial relation, Christ’s lineage, and our own inheritance as a community of faithful:
O Root of Jesse, who standest as the ensign of the people, before whom kings shall not open their lips; to whom the Gentiles shall pray: come and deliver us, tarry now no more.
The reference to Isaiah’s prophecy that “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1) draws our minds back to our own rootedness in Christ. But what family resemblance can we, the often wayward adopted sons and daughters, hope to share with Christ and his lineage? As unlikely as it may seem, that is precisely what constitutes much of our spiritual journeys toward or away from God. This is an especially important meditation to make at this moment in the Liturgical Year; as we await Christ, we are called to reflect upon the ways that our spiritual countenances resemble (or fail to resemble) Christ’s. Faith, hope, and charity are the components of our family tree, those traces of an ancestral face made present again through our devotion to Christ.
The good news is that just as having your mama’s eyes is likely to get you invited over for dinner, our spiritual resemblance to Christ initiates us into an even more perfect and joyful Heavenly Banquet. I just hope there’s gumbo.