Holy Saturday tends to be overlooked between the triumph and grief of Good Friday and the triumph and exultation of Easter, but this emptiest day of the year was understood by our medieval ancestors to be the time referred to in the Creed: "He descended into hell". Here He released the souls of the righteous, from Adam to the recently arrived Good Thief.
After these cruel words of them of hell, at the commandment of our Lord all the locks, all the bars and shuttings been broken, and to-frushed. And lo! the people of saints that come kneeling tofore him in crying with piteous voice, saying: "Our Redeemer! Thou art come for to redeem the world, we have abided thee every day; thou art descended into hell for us, and leave us not, but that we be with thee when thou shalt return to thy brethren. Lord sweet God, show that thou hast despoiled hell, and bind the author of death with his bonds, render to the world now gladness, and quench the pains; and for thy pity unbind the caitiffs from servitude whiles thou art here, and assoil the sinners when thou descendest into hell, them of thy party." This said Saint Austin.
The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus goes into more detail. After the patriarchs and prophets remind each other of their words concerning the Son of God, Jesus arrives at the gates of Hell:
|Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Descent Into Hell. c1308|
Then the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of all, affectionate and most mild, saluting Adam kindly, said to him: Peace be to you, Adam, with your children, through immeasurable ages of ages! Amen. Then father Adam, falling forward at the feet of the Lord, and being raised erect, kissed His hands, and shed many tears, saying, testifying to all: Behold the hands which fashioned me! And he said to the Lord: You have come, O King of glory, delivering men, and bringing them into Your everlasting kingdom. Then also our mother Eve in like manner fell forward at the feet of our Lord, and was raised erect, and kissed His hands, and poured forth tears in abundance, and said, testifying to all: Behold the hands which made me!
Then all the saints, adoring Him, cried out, saying: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The Lord God has shone upon us— amen— through all ages. Alleluia for ever and ever! Praise, honour, power, glory! Because You have come from on high to visit us. Singing Alleluia continually, and rejoicing together concerning His glory, they ran together under the hands of the Lord. Then the Saviour, inquiring thoroughly about all, seized Hades, immediately threw some down into Tartarus, and led some with Him to the upper world.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++The Lord Mayor with the Sheriffs of London used to go through the streets today, collecting charity for the people in the city prisons. Consider continuing this tradition with a donation to a prison ministry.
The Easter vigil is tonight. Two years ago, my sponsor (brave woman!) stood up before God and the Church and vouched for me.