Homily on Great Saturday – Christ’s Descent into Hell

There is a homily for the current day which no one on the earth heard or will hear, that no on on the earth read or will read, which, however, is worthy of the reverence of the earth as well as the very heavens.

What is this homily? It is the one about which the holy Apostle Peter witnesses to in his epistle. Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah (I Peter 3:18-20)… that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (I Peter 4:6).

Do you now see who speaks in today’s homily? Our Lord and Savior Himself, who died for us on the Cross.

Do you see where this homily is pronounced? In hell when, after the separation of His pure soul from His body, He descended in His spirit into that prison of dead souls.

Do you see who were the hearers of that homily? The unfortunate souls, contemporary to Noah, who resisted God’s long-suffering when Noah preached and the flood of God was threatening.

Do you see, finally, that the purpose in that homily was so that those miserable ones who had suffered in the judgment and punishment of both the waves of the flood and of the three thousand year confinement in hell made use of the Savior’s descent into it.

Are we going to wait so that at some time a homily similar to what was said to Noah’s contemporaries will be said to us which will be not on earth but already in hell?

But our beloved Savior, the only one Who holds the keys of hell and death, only one time, according to the assurance of the Word of God, descended into hell from the Cross on the current day.

Are we going to imagine that He will again descend to hell for us not from the Cross but from the throne of His glory? No, He will appear to all only then when all the race of man stands before Him in judgment. He will appear at the end of the world not to preach but for pronouncing the final judgment.

May we always work for our salvation here on the earth and use those means which are placed before us in the Word of God and the Mysteries of the Holy Church. Who can say that these means are insufficient? Therefore, to those who, living among these means, kill their soul through negligence, must be pronounced, in all their power and justice, the words addressed to ancient Israel, “Your ruin, Israel, is from you yourself.”

May the Lord who died for our salvation save us from this! Amen.

St. Innocent (Borisov), Archbishop of Kherson


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