The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross

WHILE CHRIST’S LAST WORDS are dispersed throughout the Gospels, the Church’s tradition allows us to approach them gathered as a whole, thus offering a more vivid, more immediate way of experiencing the Passion of Christ. It is as though we were reading a kind of primitive Gospel containing everything; as though—ultimately—we were at the foot of the cross. Here are the last words of Jesus the man, the son of Man, the Son of God, who offered up his life. Death by crucifixion is death by suffocation. The human body cannot long breathe in such a position. For Christ—already tested by the blows that had battered his muscles, the flagellation that had lashed his skin raw, the cross that had wounded his shoulders, the crown of thorns that had lacerated his forehead, and the nails that had pierced his flesh—to speak would have required a monumental, a monstrous effort to pull himself up, gasping for enough air to even emit a sound. Hanging crucified for hours, he had only the strength to utter these seven little words, and one great cry. How scandalous for the Word of God! To help us enter into the mystery we are given to contemplate, this book unfolds each word, page by page, against the background provided by Haydn’s music and splendid art. First of all, of course, the word itself and the Gospel that records it. Then follows Cardinal Journet’s meditation, a true gem of Christian spirituality, full of power and beauty. After each meditation, you will find a long passage from the New Testament which places the word into the perspective of the life of Christ or the manner in which the Passion and Death of the Savior was experienced and understood by the first Christian communities. Finally, the prayer of a Psalm recalls the messianic longing of Israel and of the whole of creation. The work of salvation, foretold from the moment of the Fall (Gn 3:15), prefigured throughout the whole history of mankind, long-awaited by Israel, is fulfilled before our eyes. The new and eternal covenant culminates here. By turns prophetically heralding Christ’s Passion PREFACE 11