Saturday, 23 April 2011

Holy Saturday: The Descent Into Hell

"Before Christ arose and ascended into heaven, and while yet lying in the grave, He also descended into hell in order to deliver also us from it, who were to be held in it as prisoners ... However I shall not discuss this article in a profound and subtle manner, as to how it was done or what it means to 'descend into hell', but adhere to the simplest meaning conveyed by these words, as we must represent it to children and uneducated people...since we cannot but conceive thoughts and images of what is presented to us in words, and unable to think of or understand anything without such images, it is appropriate and right that we view it literally, just as it is painted, that He descends with the banner, shattering and destroying the gates of hell...we ought ... simply to fix and fasten our hearts and thoughts on the words of the Creed,which says: I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,dead, buried, and descended into hell,' that is, in the entire person,God and man, with body and soul, undivided,'born of the Virgin, suffered died, and buried'; in like manner I must not divide it here either, but believe and say that the same Christ, God and man in one person, descended into hell..."

Excerpted from Luther's Torgau sermon on Christ's Descent Into Hell.

Prayer to be said before a Crucifix on Holy Saturday evening (candles remain unlit on this day)

Lord Jesus Christ,
by Your powerful Word You govern all things,
You have buried the shame of the Cross and the iron nails,
You have broken the bars of the bronze doors and descended into hell,
You have shone with the brightness of Your light on all those who were sitting in the shadow of death; Son of righteousness, risen from the tomb, shine upon our darkness with the radiant light of Your risen Body. Amen.

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