When I was a small child in church I got chills whenever we would recite the part of the Apostles’ Creed that proclaimed Jesus went to Hell. Stop and listen to those words: “He descended into hell."
It was not until the fifth decade of my life that I began to understand the line. And when I did it was one of those amazing moments of clarity. I had arrived at Holy Saturday, a day that is crucial to understanding the relationship that all of humanity – indeed, all of creation – has with the Risen Christ of Easter.
On Good Friday, the first day of Easter, Jesus dies on the Cross. Holy Saturday, the second day, is when Jesus opens the gates of Hell to let everyone out. On Holy Saturday, Jesus has robbed Hell of its power. Death is the enemy, and death is vanquished.
Without Holy Saturday, the resurrection of Jesus has very little to do with us. With Holy Saturday, we go with him. Holy Saturday is the fulcrum between the Cross and Easter.
Holy Saturday is a proclamation that no one, not even those who are already dead, is beyond Grace. The concept of Holy Saturday pushes us to reconsider the all-too-human urge to put limits on God’s mercy. On Holy Saturday, Jesus comes to find us in our deadest moments not just in the next world but also in this world.
Because of Holy Saturday, Jesus not only dies for us; Jesus dies with us, and he reveals himself as God-become-human, showing us a way to live without fear. Easter becomes not just about the One, but about all of us.
The Rev. James Richardson