April 7, 2012

Nothing Saturday?

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday...

Nothing on Saturday?

In all of the western Christian traditions, very little is said about the day between His death and resurrection. I suppose it's just another one of the insidious ideas of John Calvin that has permeated throughout the church.

It's a very different thing for the Eastern church, though, and for what the Bible says, no matter how little it may be discussed. Nor, for that matter, Calvin's opinion that Christ couldn't have entered Hell because He would have been under God's curse.

For your consideration...

1 Peter 3.18-20a
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago...

1 Peter 4.6
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Ephesians 4.8-10
This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men."
(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

The Eastern Orthodox traditions celebrate the "Harrowing of hell", where Christ descended, broke open the gates of hell, and proclaimed to the inhabitants of hell the Good News of His victory over sin and death.

Think about the power of this concept in visual terms. The demons cry out  for Christ to leave them, to go away and leave the lost in ignorance. Christ throwing open the gates of hell and bringing the truth of God's love to the lost. This is a vastly different view of the Passion than is presented in western churches. As Richard Beck put it in his blog post today:
By focusing on the harrowing of hell the Orthodox shift the focus of Passion Week. For Protestants the focus of salvation is on the death of Jesus and penal substitutionary atonement. We are saved on Good Friday. For the Orthodox the emphasis is on the resurrection of Jesus and the defeat of death, the Christus Victor themes. We are saved on Easter Sunday. The keys of death and Hades have been taken away from Satan and given over to Jesus:
Revelation 1.12-13, 17-18
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest...When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."

A very different way to think of the Passion than what I was taught. What amazes me is that this isn't a new idea, it has been around since the first days of the church.

Why have we in the west gone so far from this ancient teaching?

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