Today is normally viewed as a day for quiet time and reflection, the blessing of the Easter food, and any preparations for a grand celebration tomorrow. In our house, however, the family schedules have made this day Easter and birthday celebrations with extended family, so I am already feeling the pressure to get everything on my list done by noon. I think I will, and all will be fine. I leave you with a reflection on “He descended into hell” found on p. 381 of To Know Christ Jesus by F.J. Sheed.
Descent into hell sounds an odd way of carrying out the promise Jesus had made to the repentant thief – that he would be with him in paradise that day. But the word “hell” was used in earlier English as the word “inferos” was used in the Latin of the Apostles’ Creed, for everything in the next world that was not heaven. Where, then, did Jesus go in that time when his disciples were mourning him dead? He visited the souls of those who had died in the love of God but must wait until the sacrifice of redemption opened heaven to the fallen human race. Jesus had spoken of their waiting-place as Abraham’s bosom, naming it thus after that one of the great dead who mattered most to the Jews; to the thief he had called it Paradise, because there was no pain but the pain of waiting, and that in the certainty of redemption.
Peter has another word for it, “prison,” which emphasizes the longing to be gone (1 Pt 3:19). “Being put to death in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, in which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison” – the Greek word for “preached” means “heralded”: it is used of Jesus preaching the gospel, the good news, in the synagogues (Mt 4:23). Since the Transfiguration, the expectant dead had known from Moses and Elijah that the moment of release was near at hand, and that their redemption would be brought about by Christ’s death in Jerusalem. Now he came to them himself, new from death. The companion he had with him would have shocked some of them inexpressibly while they still lived on earth.
So “the Gospel was preached to the dead” (1 Pt 4:6). They were the first to have contact with the Savior after Calvary.
WE ADORE YOU, O CHRIST, AND PRAISE YOU.
BECAUSE BY YOUR HOLY CROSS YOU REDEEMED THE WORLD.