The Silent Sabbath

He descended into Hell.

Once I said, “In the noontime of life I must depart! To the gates of the nether world I shall be consigned for the rest of my years.”  I said, “I shall see the Lord no more in the land of the living. No longer shall I behold my fellow men among those who dwell in the world.”  My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent, is struck down and borne away from me; you have folded up my life, like a weaver who severs the last thread.  Day and night you give me over to torment; I cry out until the dawn. Like a lion he breaks all my bones; day and night you give me over to torment.  Like a swallow I utter shrill cries; I moan like a dove. My eyes grow weak, gazing heaven-ward: O Lord, I am in straits; be my surety!  You have preserved my life from the pit of destruction, when you cast behind your back all my sins.[1]

This is the day when our Savior broke through the gates of death. He has destroyed the barricades of hell, overthrown the sovereignty of the devil.[2]

The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”[3]

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment,…

But the righteous to eternal life.”[Mt 25: 33-46]Adam, Eve, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Melchisedech, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Miriam, the Judges, David, the Prophets, Joseph, John the Baptist, Dismas…what a procession of righteous. Sinners all, but repentant saints as well. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was never about Him.  It is always about us.  It is always about the Father.  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [Jn 3: 16-18]

Christ, the new Adam, you entered the kingdom of death to release all the just since the beginning of the world, may all who lie dead in sin hear your voice and rise to life.[4]

[1]From Morning Prayer for Holy Saturday. Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] From the Office of the Readings for Holy Saturday, From the Responsory

[3] From 2nd Reading of Office of the Readings for Holy Saturday, From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday

[4] From Morning Prayer for Holy Saturday

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