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Raise me from my death: Meditations on Saturday of Holy Pascha

April 14, 2023

The Church celebrates her incarnate Lord who died in the flesh who at this moment is down in Hades granting victory to the Kingdom of God. Imagine, if you will, that everyone prior to this moment, the righteous and the wicked, all went to the same destination: the righteous Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets of old, Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Moses the archprophet and all of the great women of the past, Ester, Ruth, Deborah. Regardless of how righteous they were and how holy their lives were, because there was no incarnation, because there was no victory over death, all of them went to Hades. Now the Lord enters into this darkest of places. My beloved, I want to share with you a beautiful analogy that St. Augustine gives. He talks about death as this great beast, this monster. It roams in its realm and it is King there. He speaks of Hades as a great ocean. The soul of every human, ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, when it died in the flesh, would drop into this ocean. This great beast, this creature called death, would come and swallow up the soul of any human being who died. Now my beloved, this would happen, according to St. Augustine, since the beginning of time ever since the fall. So every human soul, David the prophet and king, the righteous of the past, the great patriarchs, the holy men and women, all of them fell into this great abyss and this great beast called death. But then there came a time when the soul of the Incarnate Word of God, the God-man Himself, our Lord God Saviour Jesus Christ, after dying on the cross for our sakes and for our salvation, also fell into this great abyss. The beast did not distinguish this soul from any other because truly He was human. So he came and swallowed up this soul as well. This is where the analogy of St. Augustine becomes so powerful, so beautiful. The moment this beast swallowed up this soul, thinking it was like any other soul that he had swallowed before, he quickly regretted it because he had swallowed the very antidote to death, the very enemy that would conquer him. He swallowed the soul of Him who is Life, and when the beast tried to consume Him who is life, death was conquered. Death was defeated.

 

My beloved, just as last Sunday we celebrated His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, tonight, on joyous Saturday we celebrate His triumphant entry into Hades, He kicks down the door of Hades. One of the beautiful rites of the Eastern Church includes a hymn that says He left Hades barren. It was once filled with the souls of the righteous, but now the Lord has proclaimed salvation even in the darkest of places and He has taken all of those who are righteous with Him. He has left it barren. My beloved, this is the faith of our church, the joy of our church: that the Lord is capable of participating even in the worst of situations that humanity can experience. He is capable of participating even in our death, and in so doing He comes to us in the pit we have fallen into. He comes to us in the lowest of places and He proclaims salvation to us. He preaches the Gospel to us and in so doing, He is capable of raising us from our death. He is capable of granting us the life that we could not achieve on our own, true eternal life, the life that was supposed to be ours ever since the creation of humanity in the image and likeness of God.

 

Truly, it is a joyous Saturday, because tomorrow, my beloved, on the evening we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, we will understand what it means that the Lord has died for our sakes, has entered into hades and raised us up again with Him. On this day, I urge you, as we remember what the Lord has done for us, as we recognize that He has come into our brokenness, that He has entered into our pit which we may have dug even for ourselves, we recognize he has shined a light in the darkness. He has become the source of what enlightens the brokenness of humanity. He is the source of healing to those who, like me, are suffering from great spiritual illness, a death that has overtaken me in the form of the passions that rule over me, in the form of my addictions, in the form of my brokenness. He shines His light in that darkness that has overtaken me and He carries me out of it. He raises me from my death. I urge you, let your prayer be the same as those who dwelt in Hades for the longest of times, waiting for the coming of the Saviour, waiting for the incarnate Lord to come and rescue them from the death of hades. Let our prayer be, “Lord please come and raise me from my own death.”

 

To God be all glory now and forever and unto the ages of all ages, Amen.

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