Saturday, April 7, 2012
Holy Saturday is a day of great emptiness. Catholic churches are stripped. The Blessed Sacrament has been moved to the sacristy or to another chapel. It is a day of bleakness. For many, however, it is also the Desert Day. In the Catholic tradition this is the day Jesus went down to the dead. The Apostles Creed states that "He descended into Hell on the third day he rose again." What does this mean? The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us here. I quote directly from #633-635: " Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, hell-Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek-because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into 'Abraham's bosom.' It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell. Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the dammed, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.The Gospel was preached even to the dead. The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption. Christ went down into the depths of death so that the dead will hear the vocie of the Son of God and those who hear will live. Jesus, the Author of Life, by dying destroyed him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. Henceforth the risen Christ holds the keys of Death and Hades so that 'at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.'" The Catechism then concludes with an excerpt from an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: "Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. 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...He has gone to search for Adam, our first Father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve...'I am your God, who for your sake have become your Son..I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead." Wow! the Lord of the Universe descends to the depths of hell to free those bound in darkness. He does the same thing for those who are alive but may be walking in darkness. There is the darkness of those who have rejected God and are living in rebellion. There is the darkness of grief or sadness. There is the darkness of addiction. There is the darkness of those who are imprisoned by materialism or the worship of self. There is a lot of darkness out there. The good news is that God has entered this darkness to set us free! St John of the Cross said so beautifully "I went so low, so low, as to go so high, so high." I like to think of the analgy of a rubber band or a sling shot. Think, for a moment...the further back you pull the band or slingshot, the further it will travel. So it is with God, the further we descend in humility, the closer we become to him; Or, to put it in another way, those chosen by Him to resemble Him in His cross here on earth can be assured that they will share in a great glory in heaven. Be still. The God of the universe has just grabbed Adam and the redeemed by the hand. Maybe He is grabbing you, and in a powerful burst of light is bringing you out of the darkness into "his marvelous light." Happy Easter. Be Blessed.