The commentary of the cover

Dixit Dominus Domino meo by Pierre-Marie Dumont

This historiated letter illustrates an illuminated manuscript of the Bible executed around 1240 in the Cistercian abbey of Heisterbach, near Bonn, Germany. In the form of the letter D, it opens the incipit of Psalm 110:

Dixit Dominus Domino meo:                         The Lord says to you, my Lord:

Sede a dextris meis                                          Take your throne at my right hand,

donec ponam inimicos tuos                           while I make your enemies

scabellum pedum tuorum.                             your footstool.

This Trinity represents the enthronement of the Son by the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit. The invitation to take your throne at my right hand suggests that the Son is not yet seated, yet here we find him already well ensconced. For, as the Father says in the Septuagint version of Psalm 110:3: I have begotten thee from the womb before the morning star. The Only Begotten Son is thus enthroned at his Father’s right hand from all eternity and for all eternity. Yet, in a manner of speaking, he is here anointed, consecrated, and enthroned in time, so that, in three times fulfilled, time flows forth from eternity before finally regaining and dissolving back into it: a first time, when humanity is created in him and for him; a second time, when humanity is saved through him, with him, and in him; and a third time when, after judgment by him, humanity responds to the invitation to take its place in him at the right hand of the Father. But how can mankind possibly rise to the divine heights of this throne? Through the Resurrection of Jesus, the Father makes the enemy of mankind, death, forever the footstool beneath our feet.

In a stroke of genius, the miniaturist renders the fathomless depth of the mystery at the heart of the eternally fruitful Trinity: he represents the Trinity as a mature Father enthroning his twelve-year-old Son. Just as magisterial as he was in the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus here is devoted to his Father’s business. And this Son holds in his hand the same book of the Word of God as his Father. Why? To challenge you personally: Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works (Jn 14:10).


Pierre-Marie Dumont

Trinity of Psalter (c. 1240), miniature, Heisterbach bible, Ms. theol. lat. folio 379, p. 250, Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, Germany. © BPK, berlin, dist. RMN-GP / Ruth Schacht.