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Behind the Song: “Last Words (Tenebrae)”

“The Seven Last Words of the Cross,” as they’re traditionally known, are the seven phrases Jesus uttered on the cross as recorded in the Gospels.

Countless sermons, musical pieces, and books have been written about them over the centuries. We wanted Resurrection Letters: Prologue to open with a meditative song that not only included each phrase but also mirrored a liturgical Holy Week service called “Tenebrae.” Tenebrae is Latin for “a darkening.”

 In the service, a series of candles is blown out one at a time after readings that reflect the brokenness of the world and the desolation of Christ’s abandonment on the cross. Needless to say, it’s a heavy service—ending with the final candle being extinguished, plunging the room into darkness. The congregants leave in silence, having been reminded of Jesus’s final breath in a quietly devastating way. It has become, for me, a crucial preparation for the joy of Easter Sunday. The Seven Last Words are sung in a round, and then they fade away, like candles being blown out, until Christ commits his spirit into the Father’s hands.

You can pick up Resurrection Letters: Prologue in the Rabbit Room Store and listen to “Last Words (Tenebrae)” here:

LAST WORDS Words and music by AP and Ben Shive Luke 23:34, Luke 23:43, John 19:26, Mark 15:34, John 19:28, John 19:30, Luke 23:46

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do Forgive them, they know not what they do

Today you will be with me in Paradise You will be with me today

Behold your son, behold your mother, behold your son

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why have you forsaken me?

I thirst, I thirst

It is finished, it is finished

Father, into your hands, into your hands I commit my spirit


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