Devotion of The Seven Last Words of Christ – The Sixth Word – 30 March – Good Friday 2018
The Seven Last Words of Christ
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.
“Like a bridegroom, Christ went forth from His chamber ….
He came to the marriage-bed of the Cross
and there, in mounting it, He consummated His marriage.
And when He perceived the sighs of the creature,
He lovingly gave Himself up
to the torment, in place of His bride
and joined Himself to her forever.”
St Augustine (354-430) – Sermo Suppositus 120
” In John’s account, Jesus’ last words are: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
In the Greek text, this word (tetélestai) points back to the very beginning of the Passion narrative, to the episode of the washing of the feet, which the evangelist introduces by observing that Jesus loved His own “to the end (télos)” (John 13:1). This “end,” this ne plus ultra of loving, is now attained in the moment of death.
He has truly gone right to the end, to the very limit and even beyond that limit.
He has accomplished the utter fullness of love – He has given Himself.”
Pope Benedict XVI
The Sixth Word
“It is consummated.” (John 19:30)
Translation is risky because it always involves some interpretation. So how is this sixth word of Christ on the Cross (Jn 19:30) properly rendered into English: “It is finished” (as in “done,” “over with”); “it is completed” (with a less fatalistic ring to it); or, “it is consummated” (in the sense of “brought to fulfillment”)? The correct choice requires a knowledge of the total Gospel of John, to which we must now turn.
The Johannine Jesus is wholly focused on His hour – the moment of glory. It cannot be hastened, as He had to remind His Mother: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). Nor can or should it be forestalled: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. . . . My soul is troubled now yet what should I say – Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12:23, 27-28).
Now, if most people were asked when Jesus’ hour of glory began, they would probably say Easter morning. But John would disagree. The Lord, according to this Evangelist, began His hour of glory in His Passion, when He freely consented to the Father’s plan for Him.
The Jesus we meet in John is the pre-existent Word (Jn 1:1-14) – always in control of His own destiny, never the helpless victim of either envious Jewish authorities or sadistic Roman soldiers. Death comes when He is ready and not a minute sooner: “The Father loves me for this: that I lay down my life to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down freely. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:17-18).
And so it is that Jesus announces (even proclaims) that the hour of His death has come, proving correct the ironic inscription over His head (Jn 19:19). He is, in fact, never more a King than from the throne of His Cross. In His death, the work of salvation is finished or, as the original Greek implies, the end or purpose is accomplished.
No morbid preoccupation with death here, for death (and especially this death) is the gateway to life. No room for the Angst of the existentialists of another era. Death is not the end, as common parlance understands it: Death is The End, as Aristotle and Aquinas would have us ponder the word – the goal toward which reality struggles for fulfilment. It is in the light of this truth that Jesus’ assertion makes the most sense: “And I – once I am lifted up from earth – will draw all things to myself” (Jn 12:32).
Dying, however, is not an end in itself. In the very act of dying, Jesus did one thing more – He “delivered over His spirit” (Jn 19:30). It is significant that John does not say that He “gave up” His spirit but “delivered over” (as in “gave forth”).
Thus, we inquire, What is meant by “spirit”? Surely a play on words is intended, for spirit means “life principle” or “breath” but also spirit as in “Holy Spirit.” Interestingly, it is only in “giving up” His own life principle that He can “give over” the Holy Spirit.
To whom is that spirit delivered? First of all, His earthly life is given over to the Father, Who seals it all with the Resurrection. Second, in fulfilment of John 7:39, He gives His Spirit to the faithful remnant, Mary and John, at the foot of the Cross. Which is to say that He gives His spirit to us, His Church, represented in glory’s hour by the Church’s Mother and the Church’s first son.
That deliverance of the Spirit is achieved proleptically here, by way of a sure promise, only fully actualised after the Resurrection. However, time does not matter; in fact, eternity has taken over in the hour of glory, so that everything coalesces into a marvellous unity: Death, Resurrection, communication of the Spirit, birth of the Church.
Ignominy and triumph meet at the crossroads of Calvary in the hour of glory. The Saviour knows this and that is why He can declare so majestically: “It is consummated.”… Fr 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)