The shallowing of hell
Do you ever watch an evenly matched soccer game, and after a grueling draw, you wait until the penalties, but then switch the channel? No?
That’s what my experience of Christ’s descent into hades feels like. The Church builds up the tale bit by bit. Every lenten Sunday, we uncover little bits and pieces about the story of Salvation. Then Holy Week comes and we experience an intensive retelling of the incarnation. We look at prophecies, the gospels, sayings of the fathers. All the works.
The story then reaches its boiling point on Good Friday as we hone in on Crucifixion. After that, my experience constitutes of listening to some mentions of Christ’s descent into hades on Holy/Bright/Joyous Saturday and within a number of hours we’re celebrating the resurrection. That’s not to say the Church skims over the Harrowing of Hell, that’s to say I usually don’t reflect enough on its importance.
The problem there is that we watched the Hero rise up after being beaten, and we skip to Him saving the day. While that’s alright, we kind of skipped the fight!
The Harrowing of Hell
Why does it matter?
The story of Christ’s descent to Hades sort of serves as a “mid-season finale” to a lot of Old Testament saints, And while any details on who was doing what when Christ went down to Hades is speculative, I think it’s important to at least reflect on.
I personally fall into the usual “it happened a while ago and doesn’t impact me now” mentality. However, the eternal Church looks at these universe-altering events out of time.
This quote attributed to Saint Macarius the great really drove the point home:
When you hear that the Lord in the old days delivered souls from hell and prison and that He descended into hell and performed a glorious deed, do not think that all these events are far from your soul… So the Lord comes into the souls that seek Him, into the depth of the heart’s hell, and there commands death, saying: ‘Release the imprisoned souls which have sought Me and which you hold by force’. And He shatters the heavy stones weighing on the soul, opens graves, raises the true dead from death, and brings the imprisoned soul from the dark prison.
The illustrated short story
That’s the heart of the illustrated short story I’m working on. The main questions I set out to answer are: What might’ve happened? How did it impact the old testament righteous? what does it mean for us today, or rather, what is the yearly message the church is trying to teach us about the harrowing of hell?
This will hopefully be done within the month, ready for Holy Week. It’s a crazy deadline but I’m sure with your prayers, a few gallons of ink, and tons of coffee it will get done. ^_^