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Saturday, March 30, 2024

A Holy Saturday Sermon from St. John Chrysostom

He descended into hell by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)

I'm breaking my Holy Week silence a few hours early to share a wonderful Holy Saturday sermon sent to me by a dear friend and colleague who used to sidewalk counsel with me at an abortuary in Alexandria next door to Bishop Ireton High School. May it lead us all to a greater sense of gratitude for Christ's monumental event of salvation. The patriarchs and faithful of the Old Testament waited thousands of years to be released from their dark prison as they looked toward the coming of the Savior. May we pray in profound gratitude today and sing Hosannah with them for our release from the devastating consequences of sin!

"What is happening?

Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly He goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; He wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, He who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, His cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees Him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping His hand He raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your Son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of My hands, arise, you who were fashioned in My image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in Me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your Son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on My face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to My own image.

'See the scourging of My back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See My hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced My side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; My sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; My sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."


Almighty, ever-living God, whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead, and rose from there to glory, grant that your faithful people, who were buried with him in baptism, may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life.
(We make our prayer) through our Lord.
(Through Christ our Lord.)


  1. Here is my favorite from St. Ephrem

    I give You glory, O Christ, because You, the Only-begotten,
    the Lord of all, underwent the death of the Cross
    to free my sinful soul from the bonds of sin.

    What shall I give to You, O Lord,
    in return for all this kindness?

    Glory to You, O Lord,
    for Your love,
    for Your mercy,
    for Your patience.

    Glory to You,
    for forgiving us all our sins,
    for coming to save our souls,
    for Your incarnation in the Virgin's womb.

    Glory to You,
    for Your bonds,
    for receiving the cut of the lash,
    for accepting mockery.

    Glory to You,
    for Your crucifixion,
    for Your burial,
    for Your resurrection.

    Glory to You,
    for Your resurrection,
    for being preached to men,
    for being taken up heaven.
    Glory to You who sit at the Father's right hand
    and will return in glory.
    Glory to You for willing that the sinner
    be saved through Your great mercy and compassion.

    St. Ephrem the Syrian c. 306-378  hymn writer and theologian called the “Harp of the Holy Spirit

  2. Lovely post, thank you. Wonderful picture by Dore, I have not seen this before! Happy Easter!

  3. From the Christian East, this classic prayer, usually said at night after making the sign of the cross over the bed, but really applicable any time:

    Prayer to the Venerable Cross
    Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Him flee from before His face. As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish; and as wax melts from the presence of fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of those who love God and who sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Hail, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified on thee, Who went down to hell and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His venerable Cross, for driving away all enemies. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me with our holy Lady, the Virgin Mother of God, and with all the Saints throughout the ages. Amen.