Tag Archives: holy saturday

Holy Saturday meditation 2018: the harrowing of hell


A few years ago I had a habit of posting meditations here for the darkest day of the Christian liturgical year,  which holy Saturday certainly is, and today I will continue that tradition, but with a completely different twist.

On Holy Saturday, in between the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday, we remember Christ being in the grave. This was the darkest day of all. For the disciples this appeared to be the end. Their rabbi and alleged Messiah was dead, and a dead Messiah is a false one…

All hope seemed gone, and as far as I can make out no-one had ever understood Jesus’ own predictions about coming back after three days enough to have hope in anything like the stuff that we know would happen. For us it’s easy, we’ve heard the story countless times… The disciples didn’t have that privilege.

I’ve always done my Holy Saturday meditations from this human point of view:
Peter Rollins and his parable of Lucifer in heaven
Friedrich Nietzsche and the parable of the madman
the psalters’ song ‘momamic’

But there is another way of looking at it. A more realistic way even, if you are able to switch your frame of reference. And while the human viewpoint is not unimportant, there are other viewpoints that should not be ignored.
In the older church there was another focus for this day in between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It is the day when Christ was in the realm of the death, rescuing the imprisoned souls. Classical Christianity called this ‘the harrowing of hell’ and it was quite an important doctrine in ancient Christianity that even got a mention in the apostles’ creed.

And as you see some really weird artworks were made when people tried to depict it. The one on top of my post for example is credited ‘Psalter, Oxford ca. 1220 (BL, Arundel 157, fol. 110r)’, and was going round on facebook today thanks to the fine people of discarding images. This means it’s from the late medieval times, well after the first church but still a while before the reformation.
The interesting thing with art on this ‘harrowing of hell’ how hell/Hades is sometimes actually pictured as the mouth of a very hungry monster. A monster that lost the fight though…

So what is the moral of my post here? That there are different layers of reality, and we don’t always see what’s going on in other layers. while the disciples were having their darkest hour and had lost all hope, Christ was at work beyond what anyone here could see, freeing souls from hell…

We don’t always see what’s happening, but we do have the promise that the Good, the True and the Beautiful will win in the end, and that the hungry jaws of hell will not have the last word! The deeper magic from before creation will win in the end, and the Light will destroy the shadows of night, and we will see the morning.

The Light will win

peace

Bram

Holy saturday meditation: momamic (psalters)


Holy Saturday is the darkest day of the Christian year. The day when Jesus has died and is buried in the grave, and not yet come back from the death. The disciples must’ve been pretty devastated. We know how the story ends, but it’s good to for one day try to imagine their feeling.

My holy Saturday meditations mostly are quite dark, like they probably should be. Last years whe had Peter Rollins’ parable and Friedrich Nietzsche’s story of the madman, which both focus on the more metaphysical aspects of the death of Christ, who is God incarnate; but now I want to focus on our human experience in which it looks like God is dead.

Or absent. where is God when cities fall, when people starve in countries without any water, when no stone is left on the other in the ongoing destruction our fellow humans cause each other…

How hard is it for people who have lost everything and who still trust in God, and yet it seems like all there is is death and destruction. Refugees and victims of war, the oppressed and downtrodden… Those with whom Jesus identified when He shared in our suffering…

the next song captures the feeling perfectly for me:

The man in the moon and the man in the cup (psalters)

His step is fallin’ hard tonight.
eve has long broken,
cold black fell open,

Shine burns through fog
we sought for shelter from that light
It’s time we eat that dust up and take It in
It’s where we come from,
where were goin,
where we sin.

We’re the boots put us on tie us up,
You’re the Feet,
You’re the Blood,
we’re the cup

runneth over, runneth over me.

The cold moon is looking down on me

It shines my crooked face,
my wretched bones, my losing race
There’s no escape,
these cruel eyes of stone.

Alone alone alone with that cold moon.
Oh Lord oh Lord oh Lord
You said You were comin’ soon

Good God it’s You we love yeah.
Good God look up above,
there we are smiling down on You

Step in me fill me up,
we’re the boots
we’re the cup

runneth over, runneth over me

Save us from all we’ve done
with the blood of our Father’s Son
until that moon turns blood red,
until my wretched face has gone and fled,
until that moon is washed anew,
until these bones can rest again with You….
with You ….
with You.

peace

Bram

Holy saturday meditation: Friedrich Nietzsche – the parable of the madman


It’s Holy saturday today. Jesus is dead, lying in the tomb. All hope is gone for the disciples. To think about the desparation of the disciples is not easy. I already did one controversial try with a Peter Rollins parable before, but this year will be even more extreme I guess, with our good friend Friedrich Nietzsche:

THE MADMAN

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

questions to meditate on:

1.I don’t know about you, but I live in a post-christian culture, in which Christianity is dead. What do you think? Would the madman, being too early in the time of Nietzsche, be on time in 2011?Would the masses agree with him?
2. Think about Peter, who loved Jesus a lot, but who had betrayed his rabbi Christ in the hectic situations of the trial, which is still unresolved while christ is dead and all is lost. How would you feel?
3. Looking forward to resurrection sunday: What would it mean for God to come alive again in our life story? what would be the impact on our life, this society, this planet?

Holy saturday meditation (from Peter Rollins)


Let us imagine that we have died and are waiting to stand before the judgement seat of God … Try to imagine how it feels to look over your life – what you are happy about and what you regret… Now imagine being brought into a magnificent room within which there is a great white throne. Upon this throne is a breath-taking being who shines as if full of light…
After a moment the one who sits on the throne begins to speak: ‘My name is Lucifer and I am the angel of light. I have cast your God from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to this kingdom. I am the gatekeeper of paradise and it is for me to decide who shall enter and who shall be forsaken.’
Now imagine that this angel stretches out his vast arms and says, ‘In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left I hold death. For those who would bow down and acknowledge me as Lord, I shall grant them safe passage into paradise, but those who refuse I will vanquish to death with their Christ.’
After this the devil rnoves his arms so that each of his hands is placed before you and asks, ‘What do you choose?’


It is only as we experience Holy Saturday that we can ask whether we would follow Christ regardless of heaven or heil, regardless of pain or pleasure, whether we would follow in the midst of the uncertainty that Holy Saturday brings to our lives. It is only here that we can ask if we have truly offered ourselves to God for no reason other than the desire to offer ourselves as a gift. Faith does not die here, rather it is forged here.

(from the book ‘How (not) to speak of God’ by PeterRollins)

Would you still follow Jesus? Would I?

Do we follow Jesus for Jesus, or would we just take any way to eternal life available? whatever it would involve?