Even to the scholars and liturgists of ancient Israel, Psalm 110 was a mystery. Centuries of textual redactions and copyists' corrections had produced various versions of a psalm which everyone agreed was linked to King David. But who was the mysterious Master? And what did the psalmist mean when he placed in the mouth of God those baffling words: From the womb before the dawn I begot you? No one knew.  As one monastic author expressed it, Psalm 11O was a word waiting to be fulfilled.

 

Fulfillment came in an unexpected and surprising way. What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is He? Jesus asked the scribes and Pharisees. They said to Him: "The son of David." Matt. 22:42  Then our Lord, using the opening verse of Psalm 110, invited them to take a deeper look at the Messiah's Davidic origins: But David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, "The Lord said to my Lord, ' Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet. "' If David himself calls him Lord, how is he his son? Mark 12:36-37 The scribes and Pharisees missed the opportunity to put beneath [His] feet their long-held views: And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did any one dare to ask Him any more questions. Matt. 22:46 But, St. Mark notes, the great throng heard [Jesus] gladly. Mark 12:37 Did they have a dim intuition that the young Rabbi from Galilee was the key to understanding Psalm 110?

 

What the crowd in the temple courts dimly sensed, the nascent Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, understood. Divine Filiation — Redemptive Incarnation — Eschatological Victory — all of these, mysteriously prefigured in Psalm 110, were definitively fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of David. The New Testament contains numerous references and allusions to this Christological psalm. The Church uses it for a number of her liturgical texts.

 

St. Francis of Assisi does not directly quote Psalm 110 in his writings; yet this 13 the century man of prayer had ample opportunity to ponder this significant psalm. He prayed Psalm 110 in the Divine Office on Sundays and feasts of the Lord. At every ordination of one of his friars, he would hear the verse proclaimed: You are a priest forever. At Christmas, the Little Poor Man would sing in union with the whole Church the Communion antiphon for Midnight Mass which is also taken from Psalm 110: A prince from the day of Your birth...from the womb before the dawn I begot You.

 

Psalm 110 is a reminder that in the ways of God, as in the Word of God, there is often more mystery than clarity. St. Pope John Paul 11 Humility before the mystery, openness to God's way of revealing Himself, and joy in knowing that all has been fulfilled in Christ enable us to hear gladly and pray deeply this psalm which celebrates Jesus our Lord as Prince, Priest and Victor over the forces of sin and death.

 





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Psalm 110

(verses 1-5,7)*

 

 The Lord said to my Master:
"Sit on my right:
your foes I will put beneath your feet."
The Lord will wield from Zion
your scepter of power:
A prince from the day of your birth
on the holy mountains;
from the womb before
the dawn I begot you.
The LORD has sworn an oath
He will not change:
"You are a priest forever,
a priest like Melchizedek of old."
A Master standing a your right hand
will shatter kings
in the day of his great wrath.
He shall drink from the stream
by the wayside and therefore
He shall lift up his head.

*In keeping with the directives of the Apostolic
Constitution, Laudis Canticum,
the verses of this psalm
which contain imprecations (curses) have been
omitted in the current edition of the Liturgy of the Hours.


 

Fulfilled!
PART 23