Translation From the Holy Gospel According to Matthew

Christ Clashes with the Pharisees, Cathedral of Tours

At that time the Pharisees came to Jesus, and one of them, a doctor of the law, asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the great commandment of the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments depends the whole law and the prophets: And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ, whose son is He? They say to Him: David’s. He saith to them: How then doth David, in spirit, call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to My Lord: Sit on my right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son? And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man, from that day forth, ask Him any more questions.

A Message From Benedict XVI’s General Audience for Wednesday, 16 November 2011

King David, Gustave Moreau, ca. 1870s

[Psalm 110] begins with a solemn declaration: the Lord says to my lord ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool’ (Psa 110:1).

God himself enthrones the king in glory, seating him at his right, a sign of very great honour and of absolute privilege. The king is thus admitted to sharing in the divine kingship, of which he is mediator to the people. The king’s kingship is also brought into being in the victory over his adversaries whom God himself places at his feet. The victory over his enemies is the Lord’s, but the king is enabled to share in it and his triumph becomes a sign and testimony of divine power.

The royal glorification expressed at the beginning of the Psalm was adopted by the New Testament as a messianic prophecy. For this reason, the verse is among those most frequently used by New Testament authors, either as an explicit quotation or as an allusion. With regard to the Messiah Jesus himself mentioned this verse in order to show that the Messiah, was greater than David, that he was David’s Lord (cf. Mat 22:41-45; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44).

And Peter returned to it in his discourse at Pentecost, proclaiming that this enthronement of the king was brought about in the resurrection of Christ and that Christ was henceforth seated at the right hand of the Father, sharing in God’s kingship over the world (cf. Act 2:29-35). Indeed, Christ is the enthroned Lord, the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven, as Jesus described himself during the trial before the Sanhedrin (cf. Mat 26:63-64; Mark 14,61-62; cf. also Luke 22:66-69).

He is the true King who, with the Resurrection, entered into glory at the right hand of the Father (cf. Rom 8:34 Eph 2:5 Col 3:1 Heb 8:1 Heb 12:2), was made superior to angels, and seated in heaven above every power with every adversary at his feet, until the time when the last enemy, death, to be defeated by him once and for all (cf. 1 Col 15:24-26; Ep 1:20-23; Heb 1:3-4; 2:5-8; 10:12-13; 1 Pet 3:22).

And we immediately understand that this king, seated at the right hand of God, who shares in his kingship is not one of those who succeeded David, but is actually the new David, the Son of God who triumphed over death and truly shares in God’s glory. He is our king, who also gives us eternal life.

Hence an indissoluble relationship exists between the king celebrated by our Psalm and God. The two of them govern together as one, so that the Psalmist can say that it is God himself who extends the sovereign’s sceptre, giving him the task of ruling over his adversaries as verse 2 says: The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty sceptre. Rule in the midst of your foes!

The exercise of power is an office that the king receives directly from the Lord, a responsibility which he must exercise in dependence and obedience, thereby becoming a sign, within the people, of God’s powerful and provident presence. Dominion over his foes, glory and victory are gifts received that make the sovereign a mediator of the Lord’s triumph over evil. He subjugates his enemies, transforming them, he wins them over with his love.

Christ And His Ancestor David, Psalter Illumination, ca. 1240

For this reason the king’s greatness is celebrated in the following verse. In fact the interpretation of verse 3 presents some difficulty. In the original Hebrew text a reference was made to the mustering of the army to which the people generously responded, gathering round their sovereign on the day of his coronation. The Greek translation of The Septuagint that dates back to between the second and third centuries B.C. refers however to the divine sonship of the king, to his birth or begetting on the part of the Lord. This is the interpretation that has been chosen by the Church, which is why the verse reads like this: Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendour; before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.

This divine oracle concerning the king would thus assert a divine procreation, steeped in splendour and mystery, a secret and inscrutable origin linked to the arcane beauty of dawn and to the miracle of dew that sparkles in the fields in the early morning light and makes them fertile. In this way, the figure of the king, indissolubly bound to the heavenly reality, who really comes from God is outlined, the Messiah who brings divine life to the people and is the mediator of holiness and salvation. Here too we see that all this is not achieved by the figure of a Davidic king but by the Lord Jesus Christ, who really comes from God; he is the light that brings divine life to the world…