The Last Words of Our Lord from the Cross

THE LAST WORDS OF OUR LORD FROM THE CROSS

By Anna Abrikosova

Foreword

Life by the passions of our Lord Jesus Christ is necessary for every soul, that sincerely tries to attain that beatific condition, when she can speak together with the Apostle: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2,20). Turn your mental sight upon your crucified Jesus and upon Him alone, constantly try to do the utmost to reach God through God Himself, i.e. through God incarnated, so that you could attain the knowledge of His Godhead through the wounds of His Sacred Humanity. Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2,2) is all our science and the only meaning of our life. And it is so, because Christ descended on Earth to transform us into supernatural order of existence, to make it possible for us to join Him in His beatific life, and He gave us also the greatest joy and happiness to glorify His Name, to live and to suffer disinterestedly keeping in view only His glory. But all earthly life of Jesus leads to the Cross and concentrates in it. Through Calvary to glorious resurrection that must be the spiritual pilgrimage of every soul.
Our Lord is not only our Saviour and Redemptor; He is also a Priest, that is, first of all, the Teacher, because He is the Wisdom of the Father and His Word: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away(Lk 21, 33). Every word of Jesus is in a certain sense a creative act, it engenders and gives birth, and has a mark of eternity. Doubtless, the Cross was His highest pulpit and on it He seemed to concentrate to the utmost His will and personality and there He sacrificed Himself for us: And when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself (Jn 12, 32). And while suffering crucifixion He taught us mostly and mainly by His silence. The silence of the Cross The silent contemplation of crucified God this is the best way to open ones soul to the spirit of Jesus. On the cross He gave to us His last testament, His legacy. And this legacy is contained in the seven words, spoken by Him from the Cross. In them He had summed up and put together in a concise form all that is necessary for every soul to reach her full development, i.e. sanctity, and thus to glorify her Heavenly Father. The glory of the Father that was what inspired the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father, glorify Thy name (Jn 12,28) is His favourite prayer. He came down on earth to give the human race a new self-conscience: that they live for the glory of God and this is achieved by transforming the faithful in the supernatural order of existence. From now on their chief motivation must be the prayer of Jesus: Father, glorify Thy name.
When we are contemplating the Calvary, we see, first of all, the creature: alien, friendly, with all spectrum of attitudes; secondly, we see God, the Almighty, the Source and Aim of every existing thing; and at last we see Jesus Christ, the Priest, i.e. the Mediator, elevated between Heaven and earth, between God and the creature on His highest pulpit the Cross, and from this pulpit He had uttered the seven words, giving in them the perfect compendium of the right attitude to God, to creature, and to oneself; and these words are His last testament, because He new, that without this threefold right attitude to God, to creature, and to oneself there can exist neither true spiritual life nor any perfection can be ever achieved.

The First Word
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do(Lk 23, 34)

A strange and terrible scene appears before our eyes.
On the Cross hangs the excruciated, wounded, agonizing Lord. It looks as if all is finished. Malice, hatred and disgust of the alien creature elevated Him on the Cross, from which He will not descend alive. But what did he do to arouse this malice, this hatred, this disgust of the creature? He healed the sick, He roamed on earth doing works of mercy, He taught and spoke in such a manner, that the amazed crowd witnessed: No man ever spoke like this man(Jn 7, 46). He gave men an example of such purity of life, that He, the only one among the sons of men could honestly say: Which of you can accuse Me of sin?(Jn 8, 46). Then how did it happen, this complete and awful revolution in the minds and hearts of men?
Every time, no matter how strange it may seem, when the light of the Godhead suddenly broke through the veil of His Humanity and impressed a character of obligation, necessity and eternity on all His words: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away(Mk 13, 31), then the waves of malice, hatred and disgust raised in human hearts, hands vehemently clenched stones and one general feeling impregnated the crowd: We dont want Him, we dont want His Kingdom. No, no, no! And when He positively and irrevocably proclaimed Himself a God, and thus made obligatory for all men and nations without exception all precepts of His law, then a heinous crime, a Satans sin reiterated on earth: the creature rebelled against its God and challenged His authority. It didnt want to take Him as He is, it preferred to choose its own god, that is, to put itself in His place. That was the most grievous, the most awful crime.
When He ultimately proclaimed that heaven and earth would pass away, but His words would not pass away, because He was God, then all His words received a character of obligation, and were not only to be accepted but to be fulfilled by whatever price, then everything changed and the creature spoke: I do not want to serve, I shall not submit. All the hatred, all the malice, all the disgust of the creature raised within it, in order to kill, to dilapidate God, this living constant Reproach. And what did God answer, He who took the human flesh to save, to purify, to raise the creature to the supernatural beatific life? The creature persecuted its incarnated God up to His last groan on the Cross. When God, excruciated, disfigured, rejected cast down His eyes from the pinnacle of the Cross, He saw all around Him this disgraceful revolt of demoniac creature, the violent storm of malice, hatred, disgust. Our Lord in His last legacy, given from the Cross, formulated the law of our attitude towards the creature: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do(Lk 23,34). And in our days (this meditation was composed in Russia shortly after the October 1917 revolution translator), when again and again reiterates the heinous crime of rebellion of creature against its Lord and God, we hear the same voice of the Lamb of God, which sounded once and forever: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. This is the key to the mystery of the longsuffering of God. Only one thing changed: after the Calvary this voice is not solitary, it is joined by a chorus of souls, that received, imbibed and made theirs the attitude towards the creature formulated by their Lord from the Cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. The development in ourselves of the right attitude towards the creature is the capital task of our spiritual life. Without it there can be no genuine relations with God. This is the foundation on which all our spiritual edifice is to be built. To our nature, wounded, as it is, by the Fall, the question of attitude towards the creature is a sign of contradiction and a source of constant temptation. Our relations with God are subjected to other laws: every pious soul is naturally attracted to God, is captivated by Him sometimes even as if against her will. God is so bountiful and so magnificent that on each sincere feeling towards Him He answers by the generous outpouring of grace and thus the soul is more and more attached to Him and craves for more and more intimate union with Him. Her relations with her fellow-creatures are substantially different. She can be enticed by the creature, be absorbed by it, she may regard it as a source of pleasure this is a pagan attitude; she can live in constant warfare with the creature, hate it, see in it the cause of her troubles, being at the same time totally dependent on it this is a bestial attitude. Or, regarding the creature, and seeing that it in the evil abides, she alienates herself from it, considering herself exceedingly better than the world around her, to which she deems proper the attitude of indifference and contempt. All this attitudes are non-Christian, pagan. Placed before the alien creature, a soul needs guidance, because it is the most important moment in her spiritual life, on which all her future growth depends. And this guidance is given to her from the Cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. In accordance with these words Christian attitude towards creature may be simply benevolent, but it also can ascend on the higher spiritual level and become coredemptory, i.e. monastic. Christian attitude towards the world is mainly characterized by the purification of the eye together with profound insight through the visible appearances into the core of things, and also, what is very important, by a certain personal disinterestedness and by a quality of judging things independently of ourselves, having in mind only one unchangeable and eternal standard: God Himself and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. By building on this firm foundation, man begins to see all things in a new light. And first of all he understands that the creature is enslaved and waits with eager longing the liberation and that sin alone is its real mischief, firstly because it is a conflict with God and secondly because it is an abnormal, disgraceful and pitiful condition, that makes man weak, ugly, ridiculous, but first of all miserable. And that is why it happens, that instead of disgust, anger and hatred towards the alien creature, compassion and mercy must awake and grow in the heart of a Christian. Compassion because a Christian must clearly understand that evil and malice is spiritual darkness and blindness and one cant help to condole the creature that unconsciously, or what is still worse, consciously does not see the Sun of Truth and Love which is our Lord Jesus Christ. And a Christian must be kind towards the creature, because kindness creates within a Christian new, forgiving and merciful heart. And the kind heart engenders benevolence, that is the wish to do good, to repay good for evil done by this rebellious, alien but deeply unhappy creature. The highest good is, doubtless, reconciliation with God, that is, forgiveness, and that is why in the face of the alien creature, the prayer of the Christian in unity with Jesus will be the unceasing plea for forgiveness that ever sounds all over the world withholding the punishing hand of God and covering the sinner with a cloak of mercy: Father, forgive them. Where and in what is to be found a pretext, an excuse, that justifies this forgiveness: the appearances may seem terrible, but the Christian has within himself a deep feeling, based on a personal experience, telling him, that only divine grace can lead to a knowledge of God and give the light and understanding necessary for avoiding sin; and thus in the very blindness, darkness and absence of right conscience in the rebellious creature the Christian finds an excuse, a cause for indulgence: They know not what they do. Mercy gives birth to benevolence, which is the beginning of love, and its effect is a gentle attitude towards the movements of the soul of the fellow-creature, the acknowledgement of the mystery of the inner life of our neighbour and respect towards it. And out of this follows the practical implementation of another great precept of Christ: Do not judge. You have no right to judge, because the inner life of the fellow-creature is the mystery known to God alone, and He alone has the right of pronouncing the judgement. As for Christians, they must, according to the precept of Christ, pay good for evil, while judgement and justification are the prerogatives of the Lord: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But there exists a nobler attitude to the sinful creature, the attitude of self-sacrifice, which we may also call monastic, because all religious are in the unique way called to share the passion of the Lord and in this to unity with Him. This attitude is rooted in the acknowledgement of our own guilt and responsibility. Persevering in Christian attitude towards the creature, enlightened by the understanding of that spiritual blindness and darkness in which most godless people abide, the soul is filled with a new insight: they know not, but we know, or, at least, must know, because much is given to us, and from this awareness follows the acknowledgement of our culpability before God and the whole world for even the slightest deviation from the right way, a deep awareness of our own sinfulness and incompetence, which gives birth to sober severity to ourselves and merciful indulgence to others and, instead of sorrow and depression, strong, vigorous acts of contrition and acute thirst of our immediate sanctification. This noble and beautiful feeling creates within a soul two dispositions that are in themselves redemptory in the deepest sense, and thus a soul begins to participate in the work of salvation through her personal self-sacrifice. First is a deep compassion for the creatures and an ardent desire that they knew and did, the desire to merit for them the forgiveness of the Father by our personal voluntary sacrifices in union with the great sacrifice of the Cross. This is the first disposition, but it does not attain its fullness without the second one, which is characterized by: 1) the profound thankfulness for the longsuffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, who caused a complete change in our views and convictions, who gave us light and true life; 2) coredemptive love and desire, together with Him and out of pure love to Him, to stretch over the whole mankind our hands, nailed like His most blessed hands to the Cross, unceasingly praying by all our life and mainly by all our inner self (because a nun prays not by words, but by all her being): Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

The Second Word
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise (Lk 23,43).

The thief says: We are sentenced justly for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds, but this Man has done nothing (Lk 23,41). And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me, when You come in Your kingly power(Lk 23,42). And Jesus said to him: Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise. The attitude to God is marked by two important virtues: 1) unselfish recognition of the kingly power of God, His imperial reign over all things; 2) the right attitude towards the creature, which is expressed in the words of the thief: We are sentenced justly. In the words of the thief we see a high degree of understanding: he admits that ht is sentenced justly and receives due reward for his deeds, and this is a noble direction of thoughts And as for us, we often demonstrate the stubborn unwillingness to recognize our guilt and to acknowledge that we indeed deserve all that we are so reluctant to suffer from the part of the creature. This unwillingness constitutes a constant hindrance on our way towards attaining the right attitude towards God and our neighbour. We ourselves are truly criminals and we must acknowledge it and, taking into consideration that grace that flows from the Cross of our Lord, from His glorious wounds and from the Chalice, we most certainly commit crimes every day, every minute; we unceasingly inflict pain to the Heart of Jesus. From this sober and healthy acknowledgement of our guilt comes the active wish of amendment and purification, and a kind of plea addressed to all the creatures, that they become an instrument in the merciful hands of God in helping us to receive the due reward for our deeds. Our deeds! How useful it is in the moments, when all our nature is in uprising, and from the deepest recesses of it rises dumb contumacious dissatisfaction with our position, attitude towards us, and so on, to unite ourselves with the good thief, crucified on the Calvary, and try to envisage, how before his eyes, through the mist of previously unknown tears of contrition passes all his unholy life. And it is fruitful in such moments to remember our past, or may be our present sinful deeds, and doubtless, we all have in our conscience something that must lead us to sincere acknowledgement together with the crucified criminal, that despite every unjust treatment from the part of the creatures, we are sentenced justly, for we are receiving due reward for our deeds. This sincere and noble acknowledgement of our guilt combined with a deep thirst for purification leads to even higher degree of humility marked by love of being reviled and gratitude for being treated unjustly.
But this man has done nothing wrong (Lk 23,41). This is a virtue of seeing and appreciating perfection in others. The good thief acknowledged the divinity of Christ through the wounds of His human nature: Lord, remember me, when you come in your kingly power. This talent to see perfection in others, appreciate and disinterestedly enjoy it, is a noble, beautiful, though, alas, very infrequent quality. The saints possessed this charming virtue in its most pure form and extended the benevolent attitude, prompted by this virtue, on all men.  This is a noble ideal of the attitude towards the creature, based entirely on common sense and natural reason. Indeed in every living creature we can find (provided we possess enough humility and good will) certain superiority in comparison with ourselves: one is more obedient, the other more devoted, the other more humble, the other more friendly and so on. This talent to see perfection in others produces a genuine respect towards ones neighbor and makes easy the struggle with the temptations against him: on the other side it confirms us in due unselfish and humble dependence on God. The good thief, having acknowledged the depth of his paltriness, having measured the profoundness of his wickedness, having accepted due reward for his deeds, namely the crucifixion, ascends at last through the wounds of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus to the heights of the contemplation of His Divinity and creates within himself the right disposition towards his God. He performs the act of total abandonment of self, that is, the act of perfect charity, and from his lips proceeds a prayer, one of the loftiest prayers that ever was originated in the heart of man: Remember me, o Lord, when You come in Your kingly power.
And to attain sanctity one needs unselfishness, modesty, minimum of necessities, satisfaction with little for oneself, the knowledge of the strength and omnipotence of God and joyful admiration before His glory. He is unique, He is the Lord and Ruler of the world, His glory and beauty is in all things forever, I exist as if no more. Indeed for himself the good criminal asks nothing. Justification he considers impossible in the face of the filth of his deeds; he does not think about himself at all, he contemplates crucified Jesus and in the light of His glorious wounds his own self seems to him unimportant, he consents to all sufferings of purgatory to the end of the world, he wishes only one thing, he wants God to remember him, only to remember. It goes without saying that being remembered by God is in itself a salvation, but he does not think anymore about himself: Remember me, o Lord and on this invocation ends his thinking about himself, and before him appears another vision, which absorbs him completely, which delights him, which makes bearable and easy all the sufferings of the crucifixion, all the punishments of purgatory, and he voluntarily accepts them all.
When you come in your kingly power. Through the wounds of Christs Humanity he ascended to the knowledge of His Divinity. The good criminal does not see Him now humiliated and tortured on the Cross of His voluntary passion he contemplates Him as a King and Almighty Ruler of the Universe, who has an imperial power, because all creature, notwithstanding its consent to acknowledge Him, completely and entirely belongs to Him. And what a miserable folly and blindness it is to rebel against the King, who is always good and full of mercy, who liberates man from pitiable state of being enslaved by the creature, and elevates him on another supernatural level of existence. The good criminal now contemplates Him not in the painful immobility of being helplessly nailed to the Cross, but free, shining with the light of His glorious Resurrection, sitting to the right hand of the Father in His blissful Kingdom, and he admires and rejoices in that infinite glory of His Lord and God. How solemn sound these wonderful words: When You come in Your kingly power! And as if in answer to this noble acknowledgement of the kingly power of crucified, humiliated, torn Christ, to this striking victory of spirit over flesh, invisible over visible, supernatural over natural, grace over sin, there follows truly royal in its generosity the response of Jesus: Today you will be with Me in Paradise. This answer is full of princely clemency they are so near to each other and both crucified: one finds in himself enough moral strength to acknowledge his sinfulness and despite his sufferings makes an act of contrition and in one moment passes through the long way of purification, forgetting himself and the creatures, he focuses his sight on Jesus and ascends to the heights of union with Him, proclaiming Him as His unique King and God; the other from His cross as if from His throne declares that the reunification of the purified creature with its God is consummated: Today and forever you will be with Me in Paradise. Not tomorrow, not after the years of purgatory, but now, immediately, today. You have acknowledged me as your King and Lord, and I choose you as my householder, and where I am you will be with me, you are from now on my friend forever. You in your humility asked Me only to remember you once, and I give you all, that is Myself and adopt you as My son forever. Today you will be with Me in Paradise. This is the true Heart of Jesus, knowing no limits in its generosity, overabundant in its infinite love, giving irrevocably the most precious gift, that is, Itself. Today you will be with Me in Paradise.
What do we learn from the answer of Christ: Today you will be with Me in Paradise? Quickness and generosity in self-giving. You cant wait and postpone indefinitely the call passes by and we must answer immediately, today, and it is so difficult for us with our weak nature: tomorrow, Ill better wait some more, Ill see No! Not tomorrow, but today, immediately, at once! And for every step made towards us we must pay tenfold. Generosity of Christ, generosity of His Sacred Heart that is the measure of our love. You will be with Me the wish that all should take part in our spiritual benefits. The thirst to pour on all the graces received, to initiate all in the life with Christ, the self-forgetting, generous giving of oneself. You will be with Me in Paradise. In Paradise already here on earth, in the sealed garden of the mysterious life with Christ while attaining beatific vision and possession of Christ in Heaven. We must also develop within us the thirst for all the creature to have part in Christ on earth and in Heaven, and readiness to offer every sacrifice for that noble purpose even to being crucified like that good criminal only to hear for ourselves and for others the generous and kingly promise of the Sacred Heart: Today you will be with Me in Paradise.


The Third Word
Woman, behold your son! Behold, your Mother (Jn 19, 26-27)

The moment of death, both physical and mystical, is the point, towards which aims our natural and spiritual life. We must always remember, when we contemplate the Crucifix, that we see before us not only our Savior, expiating on the Tree of Cross all our iniquities, but also our pattern of spiritual life, our Instructor on our way to God, a Teacher that purifies, enlightens and unites. Our Lord seemed to put in our hands the Crucifix saying: Look and learn: here is all your science. That is why we must always approach the Crucifix having in mind this point of view. Christ elevates us with Him to the Cross and leads us along a painful way of co-crucifixion to mystical death, after which begins a real life of unity with God. These stretched wounded hands and feet, bent head, and opened heart is it not our real life in the deepest and most profound sense of this word and should we not say to ourselves while contemplating the crucified Lamb: There is the source and fullness of our spiritual life. Only in Him and through Him there is no other way? Through the wounds of His Sacred Humanity we shall attain the knowledge of His Divinity. Jesus was hanging on the Cross in the terrible and painful stillness, having nowhere, as during His earthly life, to lay His head, tired and heavy. Around Him foamed the hostile crowd; He had already forgiven it and gave us an example of the right attitude towards the rebel creature. By one glance full of grace, pouring in streams from His open wounds, He awakes contrition in the heart of the good criminal and helped him to ascend, in spirit of disinterested unselfish humility and acknowledgement of his total dependence on God, to the heights of unity with the Sacred Heart Heavy wearied head weighed down lower and lower and at the foot of the Cross Jesus saw a person most precious to Him on earth, may be the only creature really close to Him His Mother. She alone had always understood Him, she alone knew how to adore Him rightly and never caused pain to His Sacred Heart and she could if necessary remain as if in shadow, never hampering His sacred redemptory mission. She has abandoned herself totally to God and to her Son. She was most pure, most pious creature a chosen vessel of grace. And close to her stood apostle John young and beautiful flower of Christs love. He gave to Jesus all his youth and virginal purity. And Lord could indeed be proud of him, because the light of His Sacred Heart could reflect in the spotless purity of Johns soul. These two creatures Mary and John awaked in Jesus the feelings of tenderness and wonder, because nothing in them offended Him, on the contrary, their spotless virginal purity wonderfully harmonized with His own all-pure Humanity. But nevertheless in this great turning point, when the Humanity of Jesus totally aspired to God and to God alone, He gives us the most important and the last lesson of the complete abandonment. This lesson is so important, that before it a warning should be pronounced: Who has ears to hear, let him hear, who can accept, let him accept. In the life of every soul that sincerely strives to reach God, that decides at whatever cost and in all circumstances to attain complete purification, which is necessary in order to create place for Gods action in it, that is, firm and unbending decision to do all she can and what depends on her, and leave everything else to God; truly, in the life of every such soul there comes this turning point of great abandonment first of oneself and then of the beloved dear creature, to which the soul might be tied by a very noble part of her inner essence: may be that creature even led her once to God; admiring and enjoying its charm, this soul ascended to God, glorified and thanked Him; but she loved this particular creature, she was happy in its presence and some thin almost invisible thread bounded it to this particular creature. Long did the soul assure herself, that she can abandon this creature if God wills so, that she can give up her attachment, if it hampers her ascension to God, although it for the present seems rather help her spiritual progress. Spiritual communion with this creature evokes in her spiritual joy, longing to speak about God, to serve Him. But suddenly quite beyond her understanding some kind of uneasiness begins to grow somewhere inside her, and certain inner voice, that of grace, starts telling her insistently, taking away her peace, that she is not completely free, that the attachment, however noble, continues to exist where only God must reign and no one else and nothing else. God alone is left for those who want to pursue through the Cross and wounds of Christ their way to mystical death in order to rise for blissful life of unity with Him. God is Himself a perfect unity and He does not tolerate any division or split in the creature, that He had chosen for Himself.
This high degree of purification, when the soul achieves its final conversion, i.e. reorientation of all its inner being to God, casting no glance backwards or to the right and to the left, with complete renunciation of perhaps very beautiful, very lofty, but still too earthly, finite, created. God is and must be above everything else. Those who would not make an act of renunciation of all most dear and intimate, what became your flesh and blood and attachment to which may be considered quite lawful, of bond that seems most indissoluble. How many souls on reaching this turning point in their spiritual life this ultimate renunciation of most dear, intimate and beloved creature, to the spiritual renewal and growth of which they perhaps gave so much energy, that it became as if their beloved child, feel that this renunciation is impossible and they say to God: No, Lord, or perhaps next time, later. But some voice in them is constantly repeating: Namely this and only now God is above all.


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