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Black Saturday 2018 – The Day Jesus Went to Hell

Christ Descended into Hell

Brothers and sisters, the darkest hour of Church has past. Jesus took up the Cross and died a gruesome death. This is Black Saturday. It’s not quite Easter Sunday but it’s no longer Good Friday. We remember His death and we look forward to His resurrection, but what do we do today? What was going on while Jesus was dead?

What is Black Saturday?

Black Saturday or Holy Saturday was the time in which Jesus descended into Hell to preached the Good News and bring salvation. But those He went down to save in Hell weren’t the damned or evil souls; He went to save the righteous men and women who died before the Paschal Mystery. He went to save those who kept God’s law and loved God above all things. We should remember that Jesus’ death is what opened the gates of Heaven, therefore those who died before that, even the righteous, were not allowed Eternal Paradise. The Church and Scripture calls the waiting place for those who were righteous “the abode of the dead”:

“Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 633)

Jesus went to this abode to deliver those who have been waiting. This long listed included Noah, Abraham, King David, the Prophets (e.g. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the Minor Prophets) and many many more. This action by Jesus fulfills His saving quest for the souls on earth (those He preached to while He was alive) and for those who are dead.

This is like something out of a movie. Like an epic adventure film.

In the second century, the Bishop of Sardis wrote a homily that best sums up the salvific action of Jesus on Black Saturday, and it sounds like a Peter Jackson script! Reflect and pray with this excerpt.

Bishop Melito of Sardis: An Excerpt from ´The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep´

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell

“The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity”.

How do We Commemorate this Day?

Now that we know what happened on this day, what should we do? Here are some suggestions:

  • If you haven’t meditated on the Passion of Jesus, you can do that today.
  • Fasting is not required but recommended.
  • Pray for the Souls in Purgatory! This is a big one. Since Jesus went to Hell to deliver those souls, it makes sense to pray for the souls that are now in the process of purification (aka. Purgatory) before they get to Heaven.
  • There is no Mass for Black Saturday, but there is a Mass in the Evening for the Easter Vigil (which is another matter altogether). To commemorate Black Saturday, any devotion or prayer that you find suitable should be fine.
  • The Office of Reading and Morning Prayer is a recommendation from the Church: Here is the link
  • Most of all… prepare yourself for the Easter celebration, either tonight at the Easter Vigil Mass or tomorrow for the Easter Sunday Mass.

God bless you all and have a blessed Black Saturday.


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