The Seven Last Words of Christ

On 31 March 2023, at the cusp of Holy Week, the most sacred part of the Christian year when we remember the story of Jesus’ death and his resurrection on Easter morning, 70+ members of the community joined us onsite and another 20 online for an evening of music. Performed by Ensemble Harmonia and the Vivaldi Chamber Choir, attendees attended to Jesus’ seven last sayings leading up to his death upon the cross. Explored in both musical form and verse, Hadyn’s, The Seven Last Words of Christ, draws the audience in to consider both the human and cosmic weight of the Passion narrative.

At St. Faith’s, we believe that where art and spirituality intersect, there is rich opportunity for creativity as profound spiritual and philosophical questions and ideas are explored in new and creative ways. The Seven Last Words of Christ is one such example where weighty and complex theological ideas are examined in music and word.

The Program

As you listen to the recording of the program, you can follow along with the text of each movement below.

First Movement: Introduction

The First Word: Luke 23:33-34A

Second Movement: Patience

Lamb of God!
Surely Thou hast borne our sorrows:
With Thy stripes we are healed.
Lamb of God!
Thou blessest them that persecute Thee.
And prayest for them who despitefully use Thee.
Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord,
I will repay.
A lamb before her shearers is dumb,
So Thou openest not Thy mouth.
Thou art cut off from the land of the living;
For our transgressions art Thou smitten.

Thou art oppressed; Thou art afflicted;
But Thou didst no violence, nor was deceit in Thy mouth.
Thou didst no evil.
Thou, when reviled, reviledst not again;
Thou, suffering, threatenedst not.
Thou bearest our sins in Thy body on the tree.
Thou art not overcome of evil; but Thou overcomes evil with good.
Reviled, Thou blesses,
Defamed, entreatest,
O Lamb of God!

The Second Word: Luke 23:39-43

Third Movement: The Penitent Forgiven

Lord, have mercy on me after Thy Great goodness;
I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence,
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness,
And cleanse me from my sin.
Hide Thy face from my sins.

Against Thee only have I sinned,
And done this evil in Thy sight.
My sin is ever before me;
I acknowledge my transgression.
Thou shalt purge me, and I shall be clean.
Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness,
That the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.

The Third Word: John 19:25B-27A

Fourth Movement: The Mourners

There followed Him a great company of people, and of women which also bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus said:
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me,
“But weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Turn ye unto Me, saith the Lord, with all your hearts.

And with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.
And rend your heart, and not your garments,
And turn unto the Lord your God;
For He is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and of great kindness;
And repenteth Him of the evil.

The Rev. Matthew Emery reading the scripture verses between each movement.
Members of Ensemble Harmonia playing string instruments with members of the Vivaldi Chamber Choir singing in the background.

The Fourth Word: Matthew 27:45-46

Fifth Movement: Desolation

O my God, look upon me,
Why hast Thou forsaken me?
Why art Thou so far from my health,
And from the words of my complaint?
Go not from me.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn.
Hide not Thou Thy face from me.

Thou has been my succour.
Leave me not.
Forsake me not.
Turn Thee unto me; for I am desolate and in misery.
My hope hath been in Thee, O Lord:
Lord, in Thee have I trusted;
I have said, Thou art my God.

Orchestral Intermezzo

The Fifth Word: John 19:28

Sixth Movement: The Bitter Cup

He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart.
He is full of heaviness.
He looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man,

Neither found He any to comfort Him.
They gave Him gall to eat.
And when He was thirsty they gave Him vinegar to drink.

The Sixth Word: John 19:29-30A

Seventh Movement: Complete Obedience

He came down from Heaven,
Not to do His own will,
But the will of Him that sent Him.
“Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not,
But a body hast Thou prepared Me;
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
Thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come
To do Thy will, O God.

In the volume of the book it is written of Me,
That I should fulfil Thy will, O God.
I am content to do it;
Yea, Thy law is within My heart.
Holy Father, righteous Father, I have finished the work
Which Thou gavest Me to do;
And now I come to Thee.”

The Seventh Word: Luke 23:44-46A

Eighth Movement: The Great Oblation

Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Hereby perceive we the love of God,
That He laid down His life for us.
He tasted death for every man.
He poured out His soul unto death.
He made intercession for the transgressors.

He died for us,
That, whether we wake or sleep,
We should live together with Him.
Thou hast redeemed us,
O Lord, Thou God of Truth.

Ninth Movement: The Earthquake

The veil of the temple was rent in twain.
The sun was darkened.
The earth did quake; the rocks were rent;
The graves opened.
And many bodies of the saints which slept arose;

For truly this was the Son of God,
Whose voice then shook the earth;
And yet once more He will shake
Not only the earth, but also Heaven.

Poem: Excerpt from Malcolm Guite’s Sonnet on The Seven Last Words of Christ