Saturday, November 19, 2011

Psalm 110

Psalm 110 with the Trinity, in a Psalter
c. 1210
Illuminated manuscript
Ink and pigments on vellum
29.3 x 19 cm
Arundel MS 157, f.93r
The British Library, London

This Psalter dates back to 1210. This page shows the beginning of Psalm 110 which begins:

"Dixit Dominus Domino meo sede a dextris meis donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum"

'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand while I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

The large historiated initial "D" shows the Trinity seated in heaven. Inspired by the first verses of the psalm, Jesus sits at the right of God the Father, both with demons under their feet.

Another medieval treatment of Psalm 110 is in the St.-Omer Psalter which dates back to 1330 and is in The British Library in London

Psalm 110
The St.-Omer Psalter
From 1330
Ink and pigments on vellum
Illuminated manuscript
Yates Thompson MS 14; f.120r
The British Library, London

The history of this Psalter is interesting. The British Library website states:

"Probably first commissioned by a knight of the St Omer family of Mulbarton, Norfolk, c.1325, this psalter was decorated in two campaigns about seventy years apart. The original artists finished the paintings but only part of the decoration. In the early 15th century another artist finished most of it, resulting in combinations of 14th- and 15th-century styles on some pages."

The main image is of Christ seated on a Rainbow flanked by angels and below Him the Dead are rising from their graves, possibly at The Last Judgment

However it is the culmination of a visual narrative cycle which starts at the bottom left of the page. These images read towards the right side of the page and then up the page:

Jesus is captured in the Garden of Gethsemane; Jesus is scourged at the pillar; Jesus is made to carry his Cross; Jesus is crucified and suffers death; Jesus is laid in his tomb; Jesus rises from the tomb; the three Maries discover that the tomb is empty; Jesus ascends to Heaven; the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost on the Disciples

It is a visual meditation on the Psalm as a prophecy of Jesus as the Messianic King who conquers Death and brings Eternal Life

After Pentecost Peter and the eleven apostles went out to preach in Jerusalem (Acts 2)

He said:

"29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

(Acts 2: 29 -36)

It was this Psalm which was the subject of the latest catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday last at his Wednesday audience

The Pope summarised the Psalm thus:

"In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to Psalm 110, one of the famous "royal psalms", originally linked to the enthronement of a Davidic monarch. The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy of Christ, the messianic king and eternal priest, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father."

He also said:

"Dear friends, following the New Testament's line of interpretation, the Church’s tradition has held this psalm in high regard as one of the most significant messianic texts. And in an eminent way, the Fathers made continual reference to it as a Christological key: the king of whom the psalmist sings is Christ, the Messiah who establishes the Kingdom of God and who conquers the powers of the world.

He is the Word generated by the Father before every creature -- before the dawn -- the Son who was made incarnate, who died, rose and ascended into heaven, the eternal priest who in the mystery of bread and wine, grants the remission of sins and reconciliation with God, the king who lifts up His head by triumphing over death with His Resurrection."