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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Saturday

Hell took a body, and discovered God; it took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. - from John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily

- The Large Passion: The Harrowing of Hell by Albrecht Dürer

In schedule with the Creighton online retreat, I'm contemplating Jesus' death, while to you guys, it's Thursday. Forgive the disconnect, while I write about Holy Saturday ... Jesus death and descent into hell.

Though I'm not sure if it's meant to be taken literalyy or metaphorically, the mention of Jesus' harrowing of hell and the releasing of hell's captives - Adam, Eve, and the righteous men and women who had died before him - can be found in the Apostles' Creed and the writings of some early church fathers (Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose) ... Wikipedia says it's inferred from passages such as Acts 2:27 and 2:31, and 1 Peter 3:19-20 and 1 Peter 4:6, etc.

One modern theologian who has written on the subject is Han Urs von Balthasar. I posted something about him a while ago ... Hell and Hans Urs von Balthasar .... mentioning an article by Avery Cardinal Dulles on his book, Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved?", but another of his books is more on topic ... Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter. As usual, I haven't yet read the book and I'm not sure I'd understand it if I did (sigh) but I did see an interesting article that touches on his thoughts on Holy Saturday ... Love Alone is Credible: Hans Urs von Balthasar As an Interpreter of the Catholic Tradition: Descensus ad inferos, Dawn of Hope. Aspects of the Theology of Holy Saturday in the Trilogy of Hans Urs von Balthasar by Juan M. Sara - link.

I'm having difficulty contemplating a dead Jesus, and it's even harder to imagine him descending to and then returning from that place of no hope. Maybe that's not surprising ... Von Balthasar makes it clear how radical such a concept is, in this excerpt from a paper by Fr. Rob Marsh SJ - Creation and Redemption ....

Tradition has grasped the astonishing implications of Jesus’ death in the hiatus of Holy Saturday and the image of the harrowing of hell. Jesus dies. Jesus descends among the dead. Jesus is dead with the dead. Utter annihilation has not only been risked but has been incurred. Through annihilation Jesus has become nihil. There is no natural process that leads away from this point of utter emptiness ..... Von Balthasar warns of any “naturalization” of the Paschal mystery, any attempt to see the Resurrection as the culmination or chief exemplification of processes familiar from created things. Such analogies undermine the utter surprise of the “new thing” which God has done in raising Jesus ...

All I can say is, I'm working on it.

- The Harrowing of Hell from a fourteenth century manuscript


Blogger Cura Animarum said...

The image of Jesus' descent into Hell is one that I hold most dear to my own heart. IT is my own perennial hope that perhaps I too may find my way from isolation to new life in God...that there is no length or breadth or depth that I can go that God cannot reach into a pull me out.

Ron Rolheiser has some great articles on the topic from a very experiential perspective that you might find helpful.

Peace and God Bless


10:55 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Eric,

it is a really powerful image - Jesus dead, then resurrected. Thanks for the Rolheiser recommendation, I'll take a look.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

Ack! I'm not very good at this undercover stuff. :o(

2:59 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

You can always delete :-)

3:18 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

Yeah I could but really...what can anyone figure out from a single name? Perhaps it's the inner me struggling to get out, in which case I'd be best to allow it its freedom for fear of what shadows may arise. A shadow me could be pretty Venom from the new spiderman or something.

3:27 PM  

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