Translation is risky because it always involves some interpretation. So how is this sixth word of Christ on the Cross (Jn 19:30) properly rendered into English: “It is finished” (as in “done,” “over with”); “it is completed” (with a less fatalistic ring to it); or, “it is consummated” (in the sense of “brought to fulfillment”)? The correct choice requires a knowledge of the total Gospel of John, to which we must now turn.
The Johannine Jesus is wholly focused on His hour – the moment of glory. It cannot be hastened, as He had to remind His Mother: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). Nor can or should it be forestalled: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. . . . My soul is troubled now yet what should I say – Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12:23, 27-28).
Now, if most people were asked when Jesus’ hour of glory began, they would probably say Easter morning. But John would disagree. The Lord, according to this Evangelist, began His hour of glory in His Passion, when He freely consented to the Father’s plan for Him.
The Jesus we meet in John is the pre-existent Word (Jn 1:1-14) – always in control of His own destiny, never the helpless victim of either envious Jewish authorities or sadistic Roman soldiers. Death comes when He is ready, and not a minute sooner: “The Father loves me for this: that I lay down my life to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down freely. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:17-18).
And so it is that Jesus announces (even proclaims) that the hour of His death has come, proving correct the ironic inscription over His head (Jn 19:19). He is, in fact, never more a King than from the throne of His Cross. In His death, the work of salvation is finished or, as the original Greek implies, the end or purpose is accomplished.
No morbid preoccupation with death here, for death (and especially this death) is the gateway to life. No room for the Angst of the existentialists of another era. Death is not the end, as common parlance understands it: Death is The End, as Aristotle and Aquinas would have us ponder the word – the goal toward which reality struggles for fulfillment. It is in the light of this truth that Jesus’ assertion makes the most sense: “And I – once I am lifted up from earth – will draw all things to myself” (Jn 12:32).
Dying, however, is not an end in itself. In the very act of dying, Jesus did one thing more – He “delivered over His spirit” (Jn 19:30). It is significant that John does not say that He “gave up” His spirit but “delivered over” (as in “gave forth”).
Thus, we inquire, What is meant by “spirit”? Surely a play on words is intended, for spirit means “life principle” or “breath,” but also spirit as in “Holy Spirit.” Interestingly, it is only in “giving up” His own life principle that He can “give over” the Holy Spirit.
To whom is that spirit delivered? First of all, His earthly life is given over to the Father, Who seals it all with the Resurrection. Second, in fulfillment of John 7:39, He gives His Spirit to the faithful remnant, Mary and John, at the foot of the Cross. Which is to say that He gives His spirit to us, His Church, represented in glory’s hour by the Church’s Mother and the Church’s first son.
That deliverance of the Spirit is achieved proleptically here, by way of a sure promise, only fully actualized after the Resurrection. However, time does not matter; in fact, eternity has taken over in the hour of glory, so that everything coalesces into a marvelous unity: Death, Resurrection, communication of the Spirit, birth of the Church.
Ignominy and triumph meet at the crossroads of Calvary in the hour of glory. The Savior knows this, and that is why He can declare so majestically: “It is consummated.”
(Editor’s note: This is the sixth of seven reflections by Fr. Stravinskas on the Seven Last Words, leading up to Good Friday. They were originally preached on Good Friday 2017 at the “Tre Ore” at Holy Innocents Church, Manhattan.)
• “Seven Last Words from the Cross: ‘Father, forgive them…’” (March 23, 2018)
• “Seven Last Words from the Cross: ‘This day you will be with Me in paradise’” (March 24, 2018)
• “Seven Last Words from the Cross: ‘Woman, Behold Your Son’” (March 25, 2018)
• “Seven Last Words from the Cross: ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (March 26, 2018)
• “Seven Last Words from the Cross: ‘I thirst!'” (March 27, 2018)
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