The Journey to Resurrection
(Lent, Holy Week and Easter in a Monastery) Day 12 „the Death of Hades“.
Resurrection is not about me, but about US!
„What does it mean, whether or not it is credible, to depict Christ’s Resurrection as humanity’s liberation from death—all humanity, past, present, and future?“
Resurrecting Easter, John Dominic Crossin
Hades (Greek: ᾍδης, Háidēs) is the god of the dead and the king of the underworld in ancient Greek religion and myth. The teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church is that, “after the soul leaves the body, it journeys to the abode of the dead (Hades).
In Christian theology, the Harrowing of Hell (Latin: Descensus Christi ad Inferos, “the descent of Christ into Hell”) is the triumphant descent of Christ into Hell (or Hades) between the time of his Crucifixion and his Resurrection when he brought salvation to all of the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world. After his death, the soul of Jesus descended into the realm of the dead.
As an image in Christian art, the harrowing is also known as the Anastasis (a Greek word for “resurrection”), considered a creation of Byzantine culture and first appearing in the West in the early 8th century.
It is Holy Saturday. In Spanish Sábado de Gloria (Glorious Saturday).
The Monastery is quiet in great expectation of Easter. The early morning psalms from the Tenebrae Service (Trauemette in German) were all about waiting in hope for redemption. The Monks continue to keep vigil by the reserved sacrament chapel which in the middle ages represented more a Tomb for Christ awaiting his Resurrection. Tonight we will light the Easter fire again and all of Creation will be renewed.
The book I am reading for this passion and easter tide is a wonderful rediscovery of the communal meaning of Easter. John Crossin goes to the middle east to rescue the original eastern theology of Easter (Anastasis) lost by the Western Church.
The translation of [the Greek word] Anastasis as Resurrection is correct. But any designation of the subject matter of this iconography as the Descent or Harrowing of Hell misrepresents and distorts the message of the chosen label Anastasis. The title and subject matter of this image refer not to the Descent of Christ into Hell, Hades, Limbo, or Inferno, but to the raising of Christ and his raising of the dead. . . . In the image of the Anastasis, Adam stands for Everyone. . . . “Anastasis” refers simultaneously to the Resurrection of Christ, Adam, and mankind. ANNA D. KARTSONIS, Anastasis: The Making of an Image*
Hades the key keeper of the underground, not Hell is destroyed when Christ descends into the depths of the earth to rescue Adam, Eve, the Prophets and King David from everlasting death. It is a powerful image where Resurrection becomes a Cosmic and Universal reality. Not an individual moment of Resurrection but a moment of Resurrection for all of humanity.
The event is beautifully described by most Eastern or Orthodox representations of the Resurrection and early frescos of the primitive Church and the Church of the Patristic Period.
“Christ is emerging from a dark semicircular area below the ground (note the trees above the dark area), and he is standing atop, or trampling down, a full-bearded prostrate figure whose feet and hands are chained. This figure looks up with frightened eyes at Christ, whose long cross seems to hold his head down. What is striking is that the image is not of Satan, the opponent of God, but of Hades, the custodian of the dead. He lacks both halo and name, but he is most certainly Hades, the gatekeeper and personification of the “Kingdom of the Dead,” as we read in German on the sign outside. Beside Hades are scattered locks, bolts, and bars from a pair of narrow doors, flattened on the ground, but carefully arranged in a cruciform pattern. Christ’s halo with cross, his long ecclesiastical cross, and those crossed narrow doors form three deliberate connections between the Crucifixion and the Anastasis. The fresco depicts the crucified Christ breaking forcibly into the place Hades, scattering its bolts and locks all around, forming its gates into a cross, chaining the Hades persona, and liberating from the prison of death the whole human race, personified by Adam and Eve. This is the universal resurrection of humanity, but called the Greek word Anastasis.” (John Crossin)
Resurrection is not about me… but about US! In an age where everything is about ME, Humanity is in dire need to rescue the Communal theology that is at its core both in the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian (OT, NT). Christ in his final saving act on Holy Saturday takes a day trip to Hades, the Underworld and rescues all of humanity represented by Adam and Eve, the Prophets and King David. We are all included in this Cosmic event and All of Creation is affected in its path.
The oldest Christian Theology about Anastasis is about being raised up both with Christ and by Christ. Such is the ancient rite of Baptism where the candidate or neophyte is literally submerged in water (to the underworld) and brought back up (anastasis) by Christ to new life and resurrection. Such a powerful image in a day and age where Unity with the divine is eagerly sought after and desired.
I am not only raised up but WE are raised up as a human family in the venture of the Resurrection. We are all deeply united as a human race in search of God but also in search of salvation for our entire creation which must be rescued. We must save our planet alongside each other as human beings. The death of Hades represents the death of the old order of Creation and the rising of the New.
When the new fire is lit at the Vigil tonight, we will remember the power of fire to destroy and to build up. This Cosmic image is a reminder that from the ashes new life is reborn and we are all included in that venture.
If Christ did not rise for us, then he did not rise at all, since he had no need of it just for himself. In him the world arose, in him heaven arose, in him the earth arose. For there will be a new heaven and a new earth. ST. AMBROSE OF MILAN, (379)
video conference by John Crossin