When I was a child and a teenager, there was less emphasis upon the official liturgy of the Church than there is now, and its place was often taken by devotional prayers and exercises. On Good Friday, it was a tradition in our family to go to the church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus—the Jesuit church on the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans, where the parish held what was called the Tre Ore, in Italian: three hours. It was a beautiful and moving service, especially because the Loyola College of Music sent its organists and singers, both soloists and choirs, to lend beauty and drama to the three hours of prayers and meditations between noon and three p.m. And what they played and sang was the musical composition by Theodore Dubois, a French symphonic composer, called “The Seven Last Words of Jesus.”
What were those seven last words of Our Lord as he hung dying on the cross? They were “words” in the sense of utterances, and we can find them in the accounts of Our Lord’s death as given to us by the four gospels. They are these:
As the executioners were nailing Jesus to the cross and causing him unspeakable pain, he said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
One of the thieves crucified with Jesus said to him, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Our Lord replied, “I assure you: today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Looking down from his cross, Jesus saw his blessed mother and Saint John the Apostle standing near him. He said to her, “Behold your son.” And to John, “Behold your mother.”
He cried out the opening words of the 22nd psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Due to his agonizing thirst after losing so much blood and having had nothing to eat or drink since the previous night, he said, “I am thirsty.”
As he felt his death approaching, he said, “It is finished.”
And then, finally, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Each of these sayings of our dying Savior can give us much food for thought and prayer. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.