God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday
Every year on Holy Saturday, I wake up thinking about these powerful words from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:
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.
These words never fail to quietly inspire me. “God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.” Hell, and all that would keep us from the love of God, trembles with fear today. As they should.
The belief that Jesus descended into hell during his three days in the tomb is based on several scripture passages, especially this one:
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison.1 Peter 3:18-19
We don’t know with complete certainty what happened during those three days in the tomb. Nor do we need to, because the point is not what really happened that first Holy Saturday, but that there is no place Jesus won’t go for us. He suffered, he died, he felt the abandonment of God, all for us. So of course he would go to hell itself for us.
Holy Saturday is a strange day, to be sure. I always feel the silence of this day, even if it is a busy day. Easter is coming, and I can’t wait. But today, I remember how God died in the flesh, for me and for us all. Death, hell, evil, and all that would keep us from the love of God now tremble with fear. They know what this death means for them, and they know what is coming tomorrow. The hushed silence of this day is eagerly waiting to burst into song and exultation tomorrow. Easter is coming, and there is nothing that can stop the stone from being rolled away, and nothing that can stop our Savior from rising in glory. Thanks be to God.