Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell

Today is Holy Saturday and I hope that your Lent has been a fine and fruitful one. I didn’t blog except for a few times (I was ‘around’ but taken up with things.) The seasons come and they go; we as Catholics learn to live with the Liturgical Year as it helps us with the rhythms of the spiritual life. Many people decide to vanish from being online during Lent; while I don’t do that I did spend it in a somewhat reflective mood. I had my daily routine: awaken and grab a cuppa coffee, do my morning prayers and devotions and then watch a Daily Latin Mass on YouTube. Then on to the days’ activities: garden prepping, or miscellaneous household duties. Sometimes exploring income opportunities (which I do have to expand upon.) See this post: Bathtub Blogging, on my other blog.

But the days passed, I pondered Lent, and took things one day at a time. And now we have all arrived at the end. Today is Holy Saturday, a day which I always viewed, even as a child, as a day to spend in meditative prayer or pondering. Despite the Easter Vigil Mass in the evening, it always seemed to be a day to ‘pause,’ sandwiched in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the two ‘big’ liturgical days. While the Good Friday services are not obligatory (they should be) it still feels ‘odd’ to consider not attending. And the Easter Vigil Mass is also not an obligation (if you do not go, then you must attend an Easter Sunday Mass.) So, there are things one can definitely do on Friday and Sunday, but Holy Saturday? Where was Jesus, even? “He descended to the Dead” the Creed informs us.

Called the Harrowing of Hell, it is referred to in 1 Peter 4:6 “For because of this, the Gospel was also preached to the dead, so that they might be judged, certainly, just like men in the flesh, yet also, so that they might live according to God, in the Spirit.” and in Ephesians 4:9 “…what is left except for him also to descend, first to the lower parts of the earth?’

Courtesy Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version

What did he do there? He preached to all the Righteous who had died since the times of Adam and Eve. All of the Just who died before Heaven was reopened at His Ascension were gathered and received the Gospel. From Adam and Eve, to St. John the Baptist and his own foster father, St. Joseph, as well as countless others who died in God’s friendship but were banned from Heaven due to Adam’s sin.

He appeared to them, fresh from His Passion on the streets of Jerusalem and Calvary. He showed them His wounds, all the stripes He had suffered for the sins of all…. and they knew that the time of the banishment was over.

Who knows how much longer we have. We could die at any moment. Heaven is no longer barred to us, but Purgatory is a possibility for those who died in God’s graces but are not sufficiently cleansed from the impurities of sin. (NOTE: I do not wish to debate the doctrine of Purgatory. I have found that debating is quite pointless in these times and I lack the temperament required. I rarely do it and then only when I am moved to. But Purgatory is logical, and fits in with God’s mercy. The idea that a person could live a life of sinful depravity, and convert on their deathbed and go straight to Heaven just like a person who has died after living a life of heroic virtue, piety and sacrifice, is ridiculous. Both die in God’s graces, and upon death see God during their individual judgment, and yearn to be united to Him. Both burn with the desire for God and the latter (the holy person) enters into Heaven whereas the former (the sinner) still retaining the sins of their life, is prevented from admission because ‘nothing impure can enter the Kingdom  of Heaven.’ (Rev 21:27)  Their burning desire for God becomes like unto a fire of purgation, burning away the impurities  of their soul for as long as they are attached to the sins. This is an imprecise and simplistic recounting of what could occur, but it gets the idea across. Purgatory is the ‘entrance’ into Heaven. Some pass into Heaven without feeling the purgation because they offered their sufferings here in Earth; they essentially did their Purgatory already. Others need cleaning up.

So, Holy Saturday could be a day to ponder your afterlife. Where do you think you’ll be heading to? Lent was all about growing closer to the Lord by embracing His Passion and Death, by learning to accept the crosses that come into our life in hopes of becoming a better disciple. We suffered enough as alcoholics and addicts. And we caused enough suffering to others. Have you atoned and repented of these? Made amends? Get going while there’s still time. For we know not the day or the hour when the time allotted to us is over and we are summoned to our destiny.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)