Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

Share this:

I try to read these words every year on Holy Saturday, and each year they sear me at the deepest level. They come from a sermon called “An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday“, which was penned by an unknown writer.

The words refer to the part of the Apostle’s Creed that describe how “(Jesus) descended into Hell.” According to Church Tradition, after dying on Good Friday, Jesus descended to the depths of the dead to preach His message to them, liberating all holy men and women held captive in past centuries (there’s also a beautiful section in the Catechism describing this scene.)

This ancient homily specifically recounts Jesus’ interaction with Adam; the Second Adam encountering the First. Read these words slowly and somberly and be filled with the hope of redemption:

“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`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 healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”

Share this:
 
  • Pamela Bell Houk

    I heard talk about this at a retreat this weekend. I’m going to share it with my family this Holy Saturdayl

  • Brad

    With respect to the Reverend Howard: Madame, that is not Catholic comprehension (or even protestant?) of hell whatsoever, and I feel I must charitably state so lest any Catholic readers of this page might be reading too quickly and what you posit might sink into their subconscious and bear bad fruit.

    1) Ott's list of dogmas (please remember that we are obligated to specifically believe dogma, as opposed to "mere" doctrine):

    http://jloughnan.tripod.com/dogma.htm

    Note number 407.

    Also please note that demons, being fallen angels, are no longer in the wayfaring state and have no mutability of will: they made their choice once, when 1/3 of them fell and that choice is fixed.

    2) The CCC is online. Simply type "hell" in the search box and in the results page you will see many CCC line items where hell is plainly described as eternal.

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

    He that has ears, let him hear.

  • Brandon Vogt

    Brandy,

    Excellent point! That beautiful summary from St. Peter slipped my mind.

    However, I would add a slight nuance to your statement. I don't think "Church Tradition" and "Sacred Scripture" are mutually exclusive. When I say "Church Tradition", I refer to the broad ocean that Scripture (Church Tradition written down) and Sacred Tradition (Church tradition passed down outside the Bible) flow from.

    It can be problematic if we see the two as separate, competing sources of Revelation instead of two wings on the same bird.

    Thanks for the comment! Grace and peace!

    Your brother,
    Brandon

  • Brandy Miller

    "According to Church Tradition" – This is not just according to Sacred Tradition but is also clearly stated in Sacred Scripture.

    "For Christ also died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons, were saved through water." – 1 Peter 3:18-20
    "For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God" – 1 Peter 4:6.

  • Reverend Doctor Victoria A. Howard

    I believe that one day all souls shall be resced from Hell, maybe even the demons and devils. Read my novel, "Satan's Final Confession" and see what you think. In it he becomes an angel of light, transformed by the efforts of Christ and a saint, Jake Atkins. See my novel listed at the website given:

    http://www.lulu.com/

    I have many other boooks there as well. They are bounnd to be classics one day!

  • Brad

    Brandon, glad you are amenable. I would recommend Emmerich first, as her writing is more mundane i.e. Christ did this, said this here, etc. The small revelations are stupefying. There really isn't a way for me to relate just how so. You will know what I mean when you read how every minute thing that occurred had profound meaning, from etymological to prophetic. Agreda is less mundane and more outside-of-space-and-time: she often describes the mundane life of Mary, but she also describes the Immaculate Conception before her birth and after her assumption, for example. It is so awe inspiring, it is difficult to breathe while reading some passages. Some dismiss and even denigrate both these women (woe!), especially Agreda. Wonder why: satan hates the Woman and any who reveal her singular perfection, which itself reveals so much about the Holy Trinity. Agreda burned all the volumes she had written in a moment of mistaken humility; her director then had her rewrite them verbatim for the good of future souls. She is also perhaps one of the people who bilocated, like Pio. Most people will never read, much less hear of, these two women. That fact is itself something to be pondered: their works are specifically being obfuscated by satan and his legion. We know this from the transcript of an enormous and infamous exorcism, which I won't go into further for fear of scaring off any souls who faint when confronted by the unseen world. The merits of these two works in terms of turning souls to God and his Mother are so enormous that they provoke great and specific efforts from hell. That is why I mention them whenever possible. Ave, Maria, Vas insigne devotionis.

  • Brandon Vogt

    Brad,

    Thanks for the recommendations! I'll have to check out Mary of Agreda's volume–it sounds very intriguing.

    A dear, 86-year old priest friend of mine spent this whole Lent reading writings from the mystics concerning the Passion. He's been telling me about all of them. I think it was Bl. Anne Emmerich–who you mentioned–who saw in a vision of the Crucifixion the guards spitting into the mouth of Christ every time he gasped for a breath.

    Visions like that, whether true or not, still aid devotion and draw us deeper into Our Lord's sufferings.

    And as for the skull of Adam, I LOVE that image. Many icons of the Crucifixion–West and East–show Adam's skull buried beneath Christ's cross. They typically show the blood of the Second Adam dripping down beneath the ground to redeem and bring life to the dead First Adam. Absolutely beautiful!

    Your brother,
    Brandon

  • Brad

    I strongly recommend you read Venerable Mary of Agreda's Mystical City of God (paperback abridged version is on amazon) if you are the type, as you seem to be, who is amenable to this sort of, shall we say, behind the scenes, expose, writing, as well as the type who is unafraid of private revelation and the discernment that is required. Also Blessed Anne (stigmata) Emmerich's Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is readable online if you google it. The travels of our Lord while his body was entombed are all described in, how can I say, mind-popping?, detail, e.g. his meeting with Adam and Eve. Indeed, Adam's skull was once buried under Golgotha: the real etymology is thus revealed.

  • Brandon Vogt

    Thanks for the comment, and for pointing out the broken link! It should be fixed now–it takes you to Section 2, Article 5, Paragraph 1 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Enjoy this Holy Saturday!

  • Anonymous

    This is fantastic. Thanks! BTW, the link to the "beautiful section" of the Catechism is broken. Could you cut and paste the text in or fix the link or tell us where in the Catechism we can find it? I'm very interested in this subject. Thanks for posting about this!

  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy