Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

The crucifixion and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ occurred on a Friday, but His resurrection did not take place until Sunday. In the next few minutes, I’d like us to recall that what happened during those three days in the tomb was no less important, certainly no less miraculous, and revealed even more clearly the depth of God’s love for mankind.

First, a couple of hints:

It can be seen in the icon of the resurrection below the feet of our Lord and Savior: the smashed gates of Hell, and the lifting of Adam and Eve.

It can also be heard each Sunday during the Matins in the chanting of the Evlogitaria: “The host of angels was overwhelmed seeing You among the dead. You destroyed the power of death, O Savior. You rose from the dead and brought Adam with You, and all were freed from Hades.

Our Lord, Himself, alluded to this when he answered the Scribes and Pharisees who asked Him for a sign: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

While His holy body lay in the tomb, our Savior was still hard at work! Death on the cross could not and did not stop Him from continuing His life-saving message; no longer to the living, but now to those who had died before Him. He descended into Hell, into the depths of the earth, the place that gladly received the dead and welcomed the Savior as well.

The devil and Hades, apparently, are neither all-knowing nor all-powerful; otherwise, they would never have allowed the Lord to descend into their realm. They were unaware that the Author of Life was not only planning the destruction of Hades, but the complete and total release of its captives. Hades was about to be annihilated, yet it welcomed the Lord just as it had to countless souls before.

This understanding of our Lord’s descent into Hades was known even to the earliest Christian Church. The Apostle Peter refers to it in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and Saint Irenaeus (2nd c.) among many other Eastern Church Fathers, writes in his treatise, ‘Against the Heresies,’ “It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching his advent there also, and declaring the remission of sins received by those who believe in Him.

Certainly this is what Saint John Chrysostom understood when delivering his well-known Paschal homily read in all Orthodox Churches during the Resurrection service:

Let no one grieve over sins; for forgiveness has dawned from the tomb. Let no one fear death; for the Death of Our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He despoiled Hades, when He descended thereto.

“He has destroyed it by enduring it.” Are there any more powerful words? No mere mortal could ever attempt such a feat; only the Giver of Life. He dies in order to destroy death! And not just for Himself, but for all mankind. Why? Only one reason given: His never-ending and unconditional love for us.

He descends into Hades, and before destroying it preaches salvation to all the souls therein. He conquers death, renders the devil powerless, and THEN, rises victorious from the grave.

Indeed, the Lord is risen! But let’s not forget His awesome, soul-saving work during His three-day entombment!