Seated at the Right Hand...

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:55 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 7, "Profession of Faith".


Seated at the Right Hand of the Father

In the creeds (as in the Gloria) we say that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father.”  While Jesus does indeed have a body of flesh and blood, we are not speaking about a physical position – remember that Stephen saw Christ standing at God’s right hand (cf. Acts 7:55-56) – nor about a physical hand of God the Father Who is Spirit.
Making an analogy from human affairs to divine ones, the Roman Catechism explains that “[a]s among men he who sits at the right hand is considered to occupy the most honorable place, so, transferring the same idea to celestial things, to express the glory which Christ as man has obtained above all others, we confess that He sits at the right hand of the Father.” (Creed, VI)  We are affirming that Jesus is at the Father’s right hand not only in His divinity but also in His humanity; he is “equal to his Father in power and majesty.” (Douay Catechism, p. 17)  Scripture speaks of God’s right hand as being “glorious in power” and “shatter[ing] the enemy” (Ex. 15:6), and it is from His right hand that He dispenses all His good gifts. (cf. Ps. 16:11)  This means that Christ shares in the power, glory, and victory of His Father. (cf. Rev. 5:13; Catechism 663)
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy explains that we participate, on earth, in the heavenly liturgy “where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle.” (CSL 8, cf. Heb. 8:1-2)  Jesus’ place at the Father’s right hand is explained in liturgical terms in the letter to the Hebrews.  It was after “he had made purification for sins” that Christ “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3), a position that the Father has never even shared with the angels. (cf. Heb. 1:13)  Jesus is there as our “high priest” (Heb. 8:1), and a visual distinction is made between the priests of the Temple who stand day after day in their service, and Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, who offered Himself once and for all.  Describing Jesus as sitting rather than standing shows that His priesthood surpasses that of the Mosaic covenant.
But again, this description of Jesus being seated “does not imply here position and posture of body, but expresses the firm and permanent possession of royal and supreme power and glory which He received from the Father.” (Roman Catechism, Creed, VI)  Jesus is not resting at His Father’s side, but continually interceding on our behalf. (cf. Heb. 7:25)
Finally, the entrance of Christ into Heaven, taking His place at the right hand of His Father, “signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man:  ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’ (Dan. 7:14)” (Catechism 664)  This kingdom, which is present on earth through the Church, is the subject of the next part of the Creed: