What Are The Seven Last Words?
A loved one is nearing the end of his life. In between struggling breaths he manages to say a few words. Those who surround him lean in, making sure that each word is not spoken in vain, that each phrase is recorded in their minds, its worth and meaning embedded in their hearts. More often than not, a dying man’s wish carries much weight, and those whom he leaves behind will make sure to treasure and fulfill his final instructions.
Such is the case with Christ and His Church. While He hung dying on the cross, that Friday on Calvary, He proclaimed what is now called The Seven Last Words.” These words, based on Gospel texts, were His final statements. They serve as a guide for deeper meditation and reflection on His Passion and Death.
Many Catholics and Christians have composed their own insights on The Seven Last Words, among them Venerable Fulton J Sheen. In his book, Life of Christ, he explains:
“Our Lord spoke seven times from the Cross; these are called His Seven Last Words. In His goodness, Our Blessed Lord left His thoughts on dying. He was representative of all humanity. In this sublime hour He called all His children to the pulpit of the Cross, and every word He said to them was set down for the purpose of an eternal publication and an undying consolation. There was never a preacher like the dying Christ; there was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross; there was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words.”
(You can read his reflections here.)
The Seven Last Words
Here are The Seven Last Words:
- First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” [Luke 23:34]
- Second Word: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43]
- Third Word: Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” [John 19:26, 27]
- Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46]
- Fifth Word: “I thirst.” [John 19:28]
- Sixth Word: “It is finished.” [John 19:30]
- Seventh Word: Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” [Luke 23:46]
Jesus’ words reveal both His divinity and His humanity, His virtue of compassion alongside His feelings of abandonment, His longings and His surrender.
During Holy Week, the Seven Last Words are the subject of many sermons and retreats, as well as small group discussions. But you may also find it beneficial to meditate on these words on your own, discovering new spiritual treasures and most importantly, deepening one’s friendship with the Savior.