Devotion of The Seven Last Words of Christ – The Seventh Word – 31 March – Holy Saturday 2018
The Seven Last Words of Christ refer, not to individual words but to the final seven phrases that Our Lord uttered as He hung on the Cross. These phrases were not recorded in a single Gospel but are taken from the combined accounts of the four Gospels. Greatly revered, these last words of Jesus have been the subject of many books, sermons and musical settings.
The Seven Last Words of Christ
” Jesus reaches the heights of the depth of his prayer to the Father during His Passion and Death, when He pronounces His supreme “yes” to the plan of God and reveals how the human will finds its fulfilment precisely in adhering fully to the divine will, rather than the opposite. In Jesus’ prayer, in His cry to the Father on the Cross, “all the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up … Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them beyond all hope, answers them by raising His Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation” (CCC 2606)
Pope Benedict 7 March 2012
The Seventh Word
“Into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46)
Gospel: It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” and when he had said this, he breathed his last…Luke 23:44-46
The Word Incarnate utters His last sentence and in doing so, every last word takes on a special significance. In the act of dying, the God-Man teaches His brothers and sisters in the human family how to die. What is the final lesson?
Jesus died resigned to the Will of the One Who sent Him. However, we should not see this as passivity; it is an active resignation, which sums up His entire life: “As a man lives so shall He die.”
As we listen to the dying Saviour, two words draw our attention: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” “Father” and “thy” are the keys to the mystery of death. Jesus, in His humanity, does not rely on His own resources but casts His cares upon His heavenly Father, the Abba (“Papa”) in Whom He encouraged His disciples to have complete trust.
His heart is thus other-directed or, better, Other-directed toward the One “who was able to save Him from death” (Heb 5:7). With eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Heb 3:1), then, Christians ponder what they need in death. They are three: the grace of perseverance, the grace of final repentance and the grace of a happy death.
Such a gift then leads to that most blessed thing of all – the grace of a happy death. Several years ago I received an early morning call to the hospital to bring Viaticum for a cancer patient I had attended the entire summer. Always thoughtful to a fault, she had restrained her family from contacting a priest during the night, lest he lose sleep. Upon my arrival, the woman stirred herself to prepare for her final encounter with the Eucharist. As I placed the Sacred Host on her tongue, she smiled, swallowed and died. Her son looked at me and said, “Father, that’s all she was waiting for all night.”
What a holy death! What a calming effect it had on her entire family! What a powerful and unforgettable witness she had offered! A holy death ensures a happy death because our eyes are “fixed on Jesus.”
Thinking about death – our own death – should not be an exercise in morbidity but a truly positive opportunity. St Alphonsus Liguori, author of the classic “Way of the Cross,” provides ample food for thought in his reflection for the Fifth Station . It has within it all the serenity of Jesus’ serenity in His final moments and thus recommends itself to our thoughts and as a guide for our actions – perennially.
And so we are encouraged to say and to mean: “My beloved Jesus, I will not refuse the cross, as the Cyrenian did; I accept it, I embrace it. I accept in particular the death You have destined for me; with all the pains that may accompany it; I unite it to your death, I offer it to You. You have died for love of me; I will die for love of You, and to please You. Help me by your grace. I love You, Jesus, my love; I repent of ever having offended You. Never permit me to offend You again. Grant that I may love You always and then do with me what you will.” (St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) Doctor of the Church) ...Excerpt from Fr Peter Stravinskas
Prayer of Abandonment to God’s Providence
Lord, Your Cross is high and uplifted;
I cannot mount it in my own strength.
You have promised:
“I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all to Myself.”
Draw me, then, from my sins to repentance,
from darkness to faith,
from the flesh to the spirit,
from coldness to ardent devotion,
from weak beginnings to a perfect end,
from smooth and easy paths,
if it be Your will, to a higher and holier way,
from fear to love,
from earth to heaven,
from myself to You.
And as You have said:
“No man can come to Me,
except the Father, who sent Me, draw him,”
give unto me the Spirit Whom the Father hath sent in Your Name,
that in Him and through Him,
I being wholly changed,
may hasten to You
and go out no more for ever.
(From a Prayer a Day for Lent – 1923)