Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hell Trembles With Fear

Today is Holy Saturday, 2014.

Jesus has lived, died, and is now in the tomb. "Darkness covers the earth."1

Nearly 2,000 years later, we know that the tomb could not contain Him. We know that the shrouded Light rose from the bowels of the earth, shedding His brilliant Light upon a sleeping, no, dead world shrouded by sin.

The grieving and mourning of those that loved Him must have been unbearable. Yet, Liturgically speaking, that is where we also find ourselves.

Mourning and grieving over our participation in the sufferings of a God who loves us so much that He became one of us. Mourning and grieving in our trials and sufferings as well.

But there is a peace in knowing that this is not the end of the story; for Christ, nor for us.

Just as we are now able to see the tomb containing Him Whom was present at the Creation, knowing that His Resurrection, His Victory is merely moments away, we learn to seek and to find joy a midst our trials and sufferings.  We know that we too share in that Resurrection and Victory. This helps us to "get through", helps us to endure and to go on.

We do not belong to this world. We belong to Christ. He offers new and everlasting life.

This, my friends, makes hell tremble.

Oh; tonight is the Easter Vigil. It is my favorite Liturgy, rich in Scriptural readings (17 counting the Responsible Psalms) that recount God's plan of salvation through history. We'll see Baptisms, First Communions, Professions of Faith, and Confirmations too!

The Second Reading in today's Office of Readings is from "an ancient Homily on Holy Saturday."  Here it is:

The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps 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. 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.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
1 Isaiah 60:2

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