Studying the Libretto to Theodore Dubois’ “The Seven Last Words of Christ”

If you would like to use this material, for instance to reprint it in a concert program or bulletin at your church, you have my permission to do so. But first, please send me an email introducing yourself and telling me about your church or choir. I would like to hear from you. I can also send this post to you in a format that is easy for you to copy, paste and edit.

The Seven Last Words of Christ (Les Sept Paroles du Christ)
Théodore DuBois, 1867
Libretto and Bible Study
Copyright © 2011 by Wheat Williams
wheat@wheatwilliams.com

DuBois’ Seven Last Words of Christ was composed in 1867. The original lyrics are in Latin, comprised of Bible verses and texts from traditional prayers of the Catholic Church.

The words presented here are from the English-language edition of the piece circa 1899.

There are other musical works by other composers based on the Seven Last Words; as far as I know, DuBois’ particular selection of verses and prayers is unique to him.

Words of Jesus are in bold.

Introduction

Soprano Solo

Lamentations 1:12

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus. O all ye who travel upon the highway, hearken to me, and behold me: was e’er sorrow like unto my sorrow?

Ruth 1:20

Posuit me Dominus desolatam, totâ die mœrore confectam; ne vocetis me Nœmi, sed vocate me Mara. For the Lord Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me. Call me now no more Naomi, from today call me Mara.

First Word

Baritone and Tenor Solo, with Chorus

Luke 23:34

Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sicunt, quid faciunt. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Matthew 26:66

Et dicebant omnes: Reus est mortis; And the people clamor’d: He is death-guilty;

Mark 15:13

 tolle, tolle, crucifige eum.  take him, take him, let us crucify him!

Matthew 27:25

Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros! Be his blood on us, and on our children!

Luke 23:33

Crucifixerunt Jesum et latrones, unum a dextris et alterum a sinistris. Then they did crucify Jesus, and the two thieves, one at His right hand, the other at His left hand.

Second Word

Duet for Tenor and Baritone, with Chorus

Luke 23:43

Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso, amen, amen, dico tibi. Verily, thou shalt be in Paradise today with me. Amen, so I tell thee.

Luke 23:42

Domine, memento meî cum veneris in regnum tuum. Hear me, O Lord, and remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.

Third Word

Solos for Soprano, Tenor, Baritone with Chorus

John 19:26-27

Mulier, ecce filius tuus. See, O woman! here behold thy son beloved.

from Stabat Mater dolorosa, 13th century hymn

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrymosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Christi Matrem si videret
In tanto supplicio?
See yon mother, bow’d in anguish
Who beside the cross doth languish,
Where on high her son is borne;
Is there mortal, who not feeleth
To behold her where she kneeleth,
So woeful, and all forlorn?

Fourth Word

Baritone Solo

Matthew: 27:46 and Mark 15:34

Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me? God, my Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?

based on the Book of Lamentations, Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday

Omnes amici mei dereliquerunt me; prævaluerunt insidiantes mihi; tradidit me quem diligebam. All those who were my friends, all have now forsaken me, and they that hate me do now prevail against me; and he whom I have cherished, he hath betray’d me.

from Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday

Vinea mea electa, ego te plantavi; quomodo conversa es in amaratudine ut me crucifigeres? Even the vine that I have chosen, and that I have planted: wherefore art thou now so strangley turned into bitterness, that I by thee am crucified?

Fifth Word

Chorus, and Solos for Tenor and Baritone

John 19:28

Sitio! I am athirst!

Mark 15:29-30*

Judæi prætereuntes blasphemabant eum, moventes capita sua et dicentes: Vah! qui destruis templum Dei, si tu es Christus, Filius Dei, descende nunc de cruce, ut videamus et credamus tibi. Si tu es rex Judeorum, salvum te fac. And the Jews then passing by him, all did rail upon him, and wagging their heads at him, they said unto him: Ah! Thou wouldst fain destroy the temple; if thou be Jesus, Son of the Father, now from the cross descend thou, that we behold it, and believe on thee when we behold it. If thou art king over Israel, save thyself, then!

Sixth Word

Tenor Solo and Chorus

Luke 23:46

Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. Father, into Thy hands I commend my soul.

Psalm 88:27 (according to the numbering of Psalms in the Latin Vulgate)
Psalm 89:26 (according to later translations)

Pater meus es tu, Deus meus, susceptor salutis meæ. For Thou art my God and my Father; Thou art my Saviour.

Seventh Word

Solo for Soprano, Tenor and Baritone, with Chorus

John 19:30

Et clamans Jesu voce magna dixit:Consummatum est! And with a loud voice Jesus cried, exclaiming:“It is finished!”
Et inclinato capite, traddit spiritum. And He did bow His head, and rendered up His spirit.

Luke 23:44

Erat autem fere hora sexta; obscuratus est sol, et tenebræ factæ sunt in universam terram; velum templi scissum est; omnis terra tremuit; And it was about the sixth hour; and the sun was darkened, and darkness covered the earth, until about the ninth hour; and the veil of the temple was rent, and all the earth did quake;

from Matthew 27:52

petræ scissæ et monumenta aperta sunt. and the rocks were rent, and all the graves were opened wide.

prayer from the Stations of the Cross

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
Quia per sanctam Crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
Christ, we do all adore Thee, and we do praise Thee forever;
for on the holy cross hast thou the world from sin redeemed.

__________

*Mark 15:29 does not include the word “Jews” in the original Greek, and that word does not appear in that verse in the Latin Vulgate (which DuBois quoted), or in other translations. Rather, Mark 15:29 uses the Greek word oi, meaning “those passing by”.