Saturday, April 20, 2019

Sabbatum Sanctum

La garde du Tombeau
(James Tissot)
The day between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is known amongst many as Holy Saturday, the Sabbatum Sanctum of the title. Up until now, I had not known this.

As a matter of fact, I had not given this Saturday much thought at all.

There is scant reference to this day in the Bible. 1 Peter 3:19-20:
After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits - to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (NIV)
Some religious authorities use this reference to argue that on the Saturday between His death and His resurrection, Jesus descended into either Limbo or Hell, depending on which sources you read. To save those who died prior to (and in) the Great Flood.

Like I mentioned, I had never given this much thought before. I'm not sure why.

I remember once, some years back, we had a pastor (a very good one) whose wife one day began to explain how Jesus went to Hell. You better believe that caused an eyebrow or two to be raised. In my on again, off again bouts with religion in the days of my youth, I had never heard that before.

Well, apparently this is referred to (again, by some) as "The Harrowing of Hell" -
The Harrowing of Hell is referred to in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) which state that Jesus Christ "descended into Hell". Christ having descended to the underworld is alluded to in the New Testament only in 1 Peter 3:19–20, which speaks of Jesus preaching to "the imprisoned spirits". Its near-absence in Scripture has given rise to controversy and differing interpretations.

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the story first appears clearly in the Gospel of Nicodemus in the section called the Acts of Pilate, which also appears separately at earlier dates within the Acts of Peter and Paul. The descent into hell had been related in Old English poems connected with the names of Caedmon and Cynewulf. It is subsequently repeated in Aelfric's homilies c. 1000 AD, which is the first known inclusion of the word "harrowing". Middle English dramatic literature contains the fullest and most dramatic development of the subject.
I am starting to get the idea that religion is complicated.

This day, some two thousand and some odd years ago, was no doubt a terrifying time for the Apostles and the other followers of Christ. The authorities had spoken and had spoken loudly indeed. They had put to death this Jesus.

Would they be coming for his chief lieutenants and followers next?

And what of Mary? She was no doubt in shock, mourning her son.

That particular Saturday would not have been an enjoyable day for many. For those who believed.

After doing some research, I see that there are many facets to this Saturday in the many Christian sects and branches of the world.

Yes, religion can be complex, confusing and confounding when you dig into it.

Faith, on the other hand, is simple.

I am content with my faith. So on this Saturday...

I wait.

For the Resurrection.

Every day...

I wait.

For Him to come again.

A rerun from Saturday, April 4, 2015.


  1. I have always known it as Holy Saturday.

    1. Not really stressed in the Protestant tradition.

      Not sure why.

    2. I am a Lutheran Badger, nephew of a Lutheran Bishop. It must be a regionalism.

    3. More a religionism. Catholics and Episcopalians (dunno about the Orthodoxes) know about Jesus' descent into Hell to rescue all those condemned for others' actions (Original Sin and so forth.) In my junior high school Christ group (not a church group per se, more a meeting of Christians) the non-Catholics (everyone else but me) did not know the secrets of Holy Saturday. Which was one of the odd things that definitely labeled me as the outlier in that group.

    4. As it's based on a single line in the Bible, may be why some don't believe it, or just disregard it.

  2. I had never heard any of this either. It's always just been the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Well done!

    1. One lives, one learns. At least that's been my experience.

      Thanks Russ.

  3. At sometime in the past this had been alluded to.
    Thanks for the reminder.
    I, like you, prefer to keep it simple and know that Christ died so I might be saved.

  4. I understood it to be when he cleaned out Abraham's bosom mentioned in the Gospels. And took those folks to heaven to await the marriage feast of the Lamb.

    Romans 13 says that when we are baptized, "we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also, should walk in newness of life." After we come to faith, that Resurrection power is active in us, to transform us into the image of His dear Son. Our lives should not be the same as before we came to faith, we have a new "battery" that we draw life from, not the old human one, but the Divine Power of God Himself, dwelling in us. Galations 2 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

    Like one of the proverbs says, our lives should shine closer and closer to the perfect day. We mature as believers in Jesus the Messiah, until we are like Him, able to say no to ourselves and yes to God on a consistent basis. Then we are walking like Enoch, God's friend, the first human that God translated to heaven from earth.

    The Bible is like a never ending gold mine: the more you dig, the more you find... And if you apply it to your life, living is an adventure everyday. At least that has been my experience since I met Him on a Sunday afternoon in August of 1981. I'll never forget that day..... the day that all things became new.

    1. The Creator of Life gave us the Bible. I have seen too much historical evidence for me to doubt it's veracity. And if He took that kind of interest in having His Word available, then I better know it and be able to "rightly divide" it. A craftsman is a "workman that needs not be ashamed" of his work. So "study to show thyself approved", a craftsman that can handle the Word of God, answer questions, weave in the Word to everyday conversation..... Leviticus says to put it on the gateposts, door post, on your hand and between your eyes. To speak of the Word when you lie down and rise up.... I figure it meant what it said. I don't make little boxes with scripture to hang on my property, but I have spent over thirty years studying to be ready with the Word if it's needed... And Brother, it's needed today like no other time in history...

      Paul sent those quotes to Timothy, and if the smartest Rabbi I've ever read said that to a weakling pastor, I better listen, too!!

  5. I don't recall what we were taught in Catholic grade school about Holy Saturday, which is what we called it 'back then'.

    I always figured it was quiet day, with all of His followers in shock and numb, and the overlords taking a break after having done the deed.

  6. I remember your (OldAFSarge's) confusion when this was mentioned by someone last year. And some other Catholics didn't know about it while some other other Catholics did know.

    It is, in the common tongue, Holy Original Sin Wrasslin Day, starring Jesus vs The Devil himself, in sunny, humid, hot Hell! Not available on Pay-per-View, but only available on introspection. Not making light of the situation, but sometimes it just makes sense when put in perspective. Which, I mean, is... What about all the people who died before Jesus died and absolved so much sin? Something had to be done. So, well, here's Jesus who just died for the living and the future, did he go down and help the already dead? It makes sense, doesn't it? After all, Jesus was all about tying up all the loose ends of this and that 'Thou Shalt Nots' Considering the big war between the Sadducees and Pharisees and interpretation of scripture (can one rescue one's cow on the Sabbath or is that considered work? (No, really, a real question, of which similar questions provoked up to and including armed discussions about during Jesus' time on this Earth.)) some tidying up of various things religious had to be done, thus the 'Mellow out, dudes, and just try to live a decent life' philosophy of the Son of God (well, except about the 2nd Amendment issue, he was pretty straight-forward about that one.)

    This day is a strange one. Celebrating the passing of Him, but anticipating the Coming of Him. A day of holy introspection (sorry, I keep using that word but it is the best word for the meaning) meant, I think, as a day of resetting.

    Ah, well, always a weird time for me.

    And... Chag Pesach kasher vesame’ach. For those of you out there who celebrate Passover.

    1. Yes, a day of introspection.

      And yes, to our Jewish readers, Happy Passover!

  7. The mind plays tricks and my English was horrible. I am going to try again.

    As I have understood it for many years, the descent was to Hades which we have made Hell (only) in English. What I have been taught is that Hades is the place where the disembodied dead are awaiting the Resurrection. But, there is separation in Hades between the Righteous and the Wicked as illustrated in Jesus' Parable of Lazarus and the rich man. If you are a Christian that accepts the Creeds as a description of the Faith, both the Apostles' and Nicene creeds state the descent to the dead.

  8. It is nice to see a spirited (pun intended) debate amongst the digital mates here. I find myself aging AND feeling like a kid when Easter comes around. The culmination of the whole Book. Hurrah and Maranantha!

    1. There is some truth to the adage "With age comes wisdom."

      I just wish it came with less joint pain, less frequent trips to the potty, and a general climbing up the torso of my belt buckle...


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