Saturday, April 3, 2010

Descent into Hades


On Great and Holy Saturday the Church contemplates the mystery of the Lord's descent into Hades, the place of the dead. Death, our ultimate enemy, is defeated from within. 
"He (Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death" (Liturgy of St. Basil).
Hades is a place of captivity, where souls are held in bondage because of sin. But, by receiving the soul of Christ, Hades is no longer a place of captivity for its bonds were destroyed and death itself is overcome. Hades has become for the faithful an irrelevant place, the dwelling place only for Satan and his demons,

On this Sabbath Jesus Christ in the tomb was changing the tomb from a place of death into a source of life. Likewise His soul was destroying Hades, and leading the souls of the righteous out of that place of bondage into the eternal freedom of the Kingdom of heaven.

Let's ask ourselves: Are we alive in Christ? Despite the daily difficulties, the traumas and tragedies, the abiding presence of sickness and aging, the reality of death and hell, and all the distress of our human condition, can we say we are at peace in Christ?

He can be with us in the face of all sorrows if we walk in His way — if we follow Him out of Hades, out of the bondage to sin. He will overcome all sorrow for us, if we walk with Him and keep His commandments. On Wednesday we have the service of Holy Unction because it emphasizes the expectation of Pascha: the resurrection, redemption and sanctification of all life. The purpose of Holy Unction is healing and forgiveness. It allows a person to share in the victory of Christ and raise him to the level of God's kingdom. It assures us of the spiritual power of the sacraments of the Church so that our trials of physical and spiritual sickness can be carried with courage and hope. it helps us to realize how fragile human life really is and how dependent we are on God. In this sacrament we are sanctified and united to the sufferings of Christ which we will witness in the coming days.

Great Saturday is the day between Jesus' death and His resurrection. It is the day of watchful expectation, in which mourning is being transformed into joy.

The hymnographer of the Church has penetrated the profound mystery, and helps us to understand it through the following poetic dialogue that he has devised between Jesus and His Mother:
Weep not for me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the Son whom thou hast conceived without seed in thy womb. For I shall rise and shall be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify thee with faith and love.
"O Son without beginning, in ways surpassing nature was I blessed at Thy strange birth, for I was spared all travail. But now beholding Thee, my God, a lifeless corpse, I am pierced by the sword of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified."
"By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble as they see me, clothed in the bloodstained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God have I struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee."
"Let the creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those born on earth be glad: for hell, the enemy, has been despoiled. Ye women, come to meet me with sweet spices: for I am delivering Adam and Eve with all their offspring, and on the third day I shall rise again."

No comments:

Post a Comment