The Christic Imagination – IV
Robert P. Imbelli April 19, 2014 - 6:49am
There is the cryptic article of the Apostles Creed: "He descended into hell."
There are the enigmatic and controverted verses of Scripture: "For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water" (1 Peter 3:18–20).
Over the centuries Holy Saturday had contracted liturgically, leaving little breathing space between the desolation of Good Friday and the exuberant joy of Easter. Within living memory of some (many?) who read this blog, the Easter Vigil was celebrated Holy Saturday morning, with the risen Lord proclaimed amid song and tears of joy at noon of Saturday.
Pius XII's restoration of the full scope of the Triduum happily returned Holy Saturday to its proper place and proportion. But what is that place?
One suggestion is that it is a time of contemplative wonder mixed with dread. Perhaps what I am gesturing towards finds expression in that magnificent ancient homily, read at this day's Office of Readings/Tenebrae Service:
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.
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.