Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday: The Harrowing of Hell

O God, we look at the death that was,
Look at the time - unthinkable time!
When God lay dead and earth lay dark
And in all of time was nothing. Nothing!

The absence in which You Were.
The empty from which You Brought.
The void that only Your Voice can Fill and Shatter and Open.

And in that nothing, You Were.
And out of that nothing, You Came.
And we will the Truth of Your Death, that ever You Come.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Holy Saturday is dark, and solemn. Our Lord was still in His tomb, and those who loved him were still in anguish.

One of the most beautiful traditions around Holy Week is the understanding that Jesus also saved those who had died before He came to earth. Thus, those who longed for His coming in previous generations were also offered eternal life in Heaven. They also are a part of the "great cloud of witnesses" who surround us.

This exegesis is known as "The Harrowing of hell", and comes from at least as early as the 4th Century AD. This is yet another way of envisioning the scriptural mystery wherein Christ's resurrection saved the whole world, me, you and the little bitty babies, and the old men, and Adam and Eve, and every creature from the beginning until the end of time.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for mePaul's Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 2, verse 20

The poem is by Tina Howard
The image is an Albrecht Durer engraving from 1512 AD, titled "The Harrowing of hell", from a series illustrating The Passion of Christ.  Never heard of him, you think? If you have ever seen a figurine or art featuring the "Praying Hands", you've seen his work.

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