Holy Saturday – He Descended Into Hell

by Bishop Robert Barron

Today we commemorate Holy Saturday, the quiet, somber interlude between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Instead of sharing my own reflections I’d like to share this ancient homily, composed by an anonymous source. It brings to life that stirring line in the Apostle’s Creed: “He descended into hell.”

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes into them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: “My Lord be with you all.” And Christ in reply says to Adam: “And with your spirit.” And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”


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  • Anton D

    ‘ Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. ‘

    ‘ I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority
    – those in prison: Come forth, and
    – those in darkness: Have light, and
    – those who sleep: Rise. ‘

  • ber

    Amen …..And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us

  • D Blyth

    Profound insight!

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      D. Blyth I want to thank you again for the link to “The Fourth Cup” I listened to it during the Three Hours yesterday. Absolutely Beautiful

      • D Blyth

        Barbara I have watched it several times. I learn each time.
        I’m pleased that you too have enjoyed it!

        • Barbara Ann Baugh

          Yes I printed out the hand out from the website and realized that I have heard these passages at Mass and have studied them in Bible Study but never saw them in the light of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. I definitely will listen to the presentation again. It is amazing how the Bible is different every time we read it. I am just learning how to use the Catechism. I use the online versions because I can quickly match it up with the Bible.

          • D Blyth

            The Bible is indeed rich. The Mass and the New Testament were developed together. It keeps unfolding and revealing more to us as we are ready. The Catechism is helpful in this.
            As a protestant theologian and Scripture scholar, Scott Hahn found this out and was in awe. You can find this in his book “The Lamb’s Supper” which augments the Fourth Cup.

          • Holofernes


            Christians are cannibals because of this
            passage in their sacred Gospels:

            [John 6: 53] Jesus said “Very truly I tell you
            unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life
            in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will
            raise them up on the last day for my flesh is true food and my blood is true
            drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.
            Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father so whoever
            eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven,
            not like that which your ancestors ate and they died. But the one who eats this
            bread will live forever.”

            I guess
            Christian vegetarians don’t get eternal life, bummer.

            Laws of God our Creator – 3500 year old laws are TRUTH.

            TORAH [Genesis 9:4] “Only flesh with the life thereof which is the blood

            thereof shall ye not eat.”

            TORAH [Leviticus 7:26] “And ye shall eat no manner of blood whether it be

            of fowl or of beast in any of your dwellings.”

            TORAH [Leviticus 7:27] “Whosoever it be that eateth any blood that soul

            shall be cut off from his people.”

            AND HATRED OF GOD AND THE LAW. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5ab62ede8c585d372274babd4a50826feeadaaa4dc06c3c4edac8c557cf1866a.jpg

  • Rena Marzen

    . . . . Rise. . . for you in me and I in you are one undivided person. . . . Rise . . . the treasures of good things opened; the kingdom of heaven prepared . . . I give thanks for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Elizabeth
    • john t.

      Brilliant! Thank you.

    • Sandra

      Also beautiful!!

  • john t.

    Incredible imagery!

  • Alicia

    Tearfully speechless..Thank You Precious Jesus God for loving me…

  • Diane

    Wow! Thank you.

  • jesspinosa

    Beautiful, inspired homily. Here is a YouTube video of the prayer. Happy Easter to all.

    • nedheadz

      beautiful….thank you for sharing
      It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘to-do’ list and lose sight of today’s purpose.

    • ber

      Beautfull thank you

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      Thank you

    • KathleenAnn

      Thank you

  • mark matuza

    Today is the bittersweet day of anticipation

  • Nathalie


  • Jeanette

    Jesus, help me to be in silence and prayer by Your tomb today, in anticipation of Your Glorious Resurrection!

  • Behrsmom

    Wow…just…oh my. Thank you and bless you Bishop for sharing that today.
    Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!

  • Linda Dokey


  • concerned citizen

    I had always wondered whether the original sin that our first parents committed was a mortal sin or just a venial sin.

    • Anton D

      When our will chooses to exceed the Truth, then all hell breaks loose and gives rise to sin.

      Jesus comes to unite (communion) our will into his Will (Truth). ‘ Not my will, but your Will be done.’

      • concerned citizen

        If the original sin was a venial sin, then there is no need for Baptism. However,

        if the original sin was a mortal sin, then do unbaptized babies go to Hell? I don’t think so.

        So what is it?

        • Anton D

          Original sin gives rise to all sin.

          • kayeloney@cox.net

            Thank You for the video. When Adam used his own Human Will it separated it from the Divine Will. I give my Human Will back to Jesus daily, asking Mary to give me Jesus Divine Will in which to pray with, for all Souls Past, Present, and Future. Happy Easter

        • Anton D

          Fr. Robert Barron on Original Sin

        • ber

          Very interesting concerned didn’t the gravity of sin depend on knowlage of which a child has no knowlage Adam and Eve in the beginning had full knowledge of who God was good
          area for much thought

          • concerned citizen

            I agree. In addition, how about the consequences of that sin. Does not that also determine the gravity of the sin? The sin of Adam and Eve brought death and sufferings to the world. In a way they are partly responsible for all the sufferings every single individual would be suffering here on earth. Maybe that is why in that ancient homily, Jesus said I have dispersed the load of sins of your back through my scourgings. Jesus must have been referring to all the sufferings that entered the world that was partly caused by the sin of Adam.

            If you think of it, it could be just that Adam and Eve would have to stay in Purgatory until the end of the world.

        • concerned citizen

          Since many replied, I find it best to answer my own question.

          Original sin is neither a mortal or venial sin. Mortal or venial sins are actual sins whereas original sin is a sin we inherited from our first parents. However original sin deprives us of sanctifying grace like a mortal sin. The gates of heaven were shut from mankind because of original sin. In the same way, one cannot enter heaven in a state of mortal sin. However those who die in the state of original sin but with no mortal sin will not go to hell but to limbo. At least that was the teaching before.

          • Gary

            What kind of sin do you think God loves most? Scripture says he hates all sin, original, venial, mortal. This time of the year we all should be aware that he died a horrible death and became sin for us. We should lift up our hearts in praise and worship and thanksgiving to the Father for making Jesus the sacrificial lamb for us. If you confess with your tongue and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. Salvation is ours by Faith in what Jesus did to make us righteous in the eyes of God though his mercy and Grace, We are no longer slaves to SIN, but slaves to RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jesus conquered the grave. Victory is ours. That is what I will celebrate tomorrow.

          • Gary

            Which Mortal sin did Jesus not die for?

    • D Blyth

      From John’s Gospel we learn of the deadly sin – mortal sin that destroys our relationship with our Lord.

    • Gary

      The sin that was committed resulted in God cursing the earth. This world still carries that curse today. Satan has been in control ever since then, but the good news is that Jesus is coming back to renew the face of the earth and take control. I would say that original sin was quite serious. Man’s relationship can only be restored by internal conversion of the heart by Faith through Grace.

  • Nancy Rynders

    This was the best reflection yet. So many connections, so many beautiful images…….this blessed, blessed day.

    • D Blyth

      It’s appropriate that it’s the best reflection – we know that we may expect His resurrection – our hope and our redemption!

  • GV

    Growing up in Cuba, we celebrated ‘Glorious Saturday’, a day of rejoicing when Jesus was ‘waking up’ the dead and releasing souls from Purgatory, so to speak. Have yet to find a clear, logical explanation as to why the Church (Vatican II?) changed it to ‘Holy (somber) Thursday.

    • D Blyth

      Thursday is two days later. On Thursday we await His resurrection! Sunday is the day of the resurrection and a cause for joy!

  • Kristi Walsh

    I wonder if mortal sin exist any longer after Jesus’ sacrifice? If he truly died to eliminate all excommunication from God the Father, then how can there be sin that permanently disconnects us? It seems to me that mortal sin only exists when we turn our back on God.

    • D Blyth

      From John’s Gospel we learn of the deadly sin – mortal sin that destroys our relationship with our Lord.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      We can repent, confess, and be forgiven mortal sin. But mortal sin does exist.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    The reading is beautiful and so full of truth. Jesus exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden because they did their own Human Will, which was Sinful. Jesus restored them at the first judgement. No angrier just Love because Adam did live in the Divine Will of the Trinity before his fall which does not denies anyone who live’s in the Divine Will. Peace be with you and with your Spirit. Happy Easter.

  • concerned citizen

    I have always thought that Adam and Eve should be punished more severely than their descendants because it was because of them that death and sufferings entered this world. It was also because of them that our Lord had to die to cleanse us from our original sin. Do you not think that their sin was even worse than say the sins committed by Herod for the slaying the Holy Innocents or Hitler for his genocide. But judging from the homily posted by Bishop Barron, it seems that Adam and Eve repented. But did they go straight to heaven or did they go first to purgatory?

    • ber

      I believe limbo existed before our lords death something not talked about now but there had to be a state exist because we are told Jesus opens the gates of death and all holy souls entered so my money is on limbo what do you think

      • D Blyth

        In Scripture those that died prior to Jesus’ resurrection were “in Abraham’s bosom”

        • ber

          Yes but what state was that referring too

          • D Blyth

            It appears that Moses and others were held “in Abraham’s bosom”.
            I believe that the state that was referred to, was broad – holy people such as Moses and other prophets – and others that fell short of the holiness of them

          • Barbara Ann Baugh

            I have often thought that David should have to do some time in purgatory also.

      • concerned citizen

        Ber, I meant to question when Jesus came to the dead and released Adam, did He bring Him directly to Heaven or did he stay first in purgatory. So that was after the Lord’s death already.

        • ber

          Could it be concerned that limbo at that time was also purgatory

          • concerned citizen

            Ber, although those in limbo were also deprived of the Beatific Vision like in purgatory, they did not suffer from the fires of purgatory.

          • ber

            Of course you are so right that’s givin me a lot to think about thanks and happy Easter concerned enjoyed all your comments godbless

  • Deng

    Thank you, thank you, thank you my LORD MY GOD.”The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.” Praise and Glory to You our LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. Amen

  • Sandra

    Really beautiful and deeply moving. Thank you.

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    As a child I often wondered about the Part of the Apostles’ Creed “He descended into Hell” My perception of that was Jesus went to Hell to give the devil the raspberry. I envisioned Jesus sticking His tongue out at the devil and saying Nayna Nayna
    I later learned that it meant that Jesus had rescued all the souls that had died since Adam. Now I relate it to myself. I do not deserve to go to heaven, but God has mercifully created purgatory where I can be purged of my sins. So I can enjoy eternity with Him.

  • rtclovesmac

    Quite hope fulfilled for God’s creation who wounded him so deeply that he was cast from the Garden, setting in motion all that human history has unfolded through today for our sakes…
    Love made perfect in forgiveness….and now for us again unfolding. for some to our utter amazement, to others yet known.

  • Penelope

    I woke early this morning, just after midnight, and dressed warm and ready to go out into the cold winter night, and in the quiet, I waited for my friend to come for me. Together we made our annual pilgrimage to the church nearby that opens its doors for 40 Hours during the Triduum, where many faithful from our surrounding communities sign up to come for an hour, to sit before the Lord in the Tabernacle on the Altar of Repose, in silence during these 40 Hours. The Altar of Repose is located in a small room behind the Sacristy of the Church.

    And we sat with the Lord in the quiet for the hour, from 1 to 2am, two women in silent prayer, before the Lord in The Chapel of Repose.

    These words kept coming to me, clearly, gently, strongly, persistently, continually, and resonated deeply in my heart and soul.
    ‘Take me in your heart, my child; be a tabernacle for the world….’

  • Jackie

    “I did not come to suffer all this pain in vain: but to give you a new heart to beat as mine.” Jesus