Here are many of the wonderful things that first attracted me to Orthodoxy. I had to wonder how many people reading their service books with such rapt attention as I did on the evening of Good Friday, 2008. My comments are between the quotes:
…for through Your Burial You opened for me the portals of life; and by death You have put Death and Hades to Death.
ie., This is why Christ had to die. It’s not just about punishment for our sins: It’s far more than that, and far more glorious and powerful.
You stretched out Your arms and united those who were divided of old. Restrained by the shroud and tomb, You loosed those held captive, who cry out: ‘There is none Holy, save You, O Lord.’
There is that good ol’ Orthodox theology, using contrasts, showing how Christ died so that we could have life.
O uncontainable One, You were sealed in a tomb of Your own will; and You made known Your Power through Your Divine actions to those who sing.
It was of Christ’s own will, not something the Father forced on Him.
You descended to the depths of the earth to fill all things with Your glory; for my person that is in Adam was not hidden from You; and being buried, You renewed me from corruption, oh Lover of mankind.
You have revealed the symbols of Your Burial by many visions. But now, You have manifested Your secrets as God and Man, even to those in Hades, O Master.
Foreseeing Your Divine self-emptying on the Cross, Habakkuk cried out in amazement: ‘You cut off the power of the mighty, O Good One, speaking to those in Hades, as the Almighty.’
When Your soul was separated from the body, the bonds of both Hades and Death were shattered with greater strength by Your might, O Word of God.
Hades in encountering You, O Word, was embittered, beholding a mortal deified; covered with bruises, yet all powerful. Wherefore, it shrank back at the awesome sight.
You transform the mortal by death, and the corrupt by burial; for as befits God, You have made incorruptible and immortal the nature you assumed; for Your body, O Master, did not see corruption, nor was Your soul abandoned as a stranger in Hades.
Verily, Hades rules the race of mortals, but not forever; for You, O Mighty One, when placed in the tomb, demolished the bars of death with Your Life-giving Hand, and preached to those who slept there from the ages of old the true redemption, becoming, O Saviour, the First-Born of the dead.
This is the Harrowing of Hades, when Christ preached to the dead in Hades, then brought out the righteous into Paradise.
There are many in the various denominations today who say this is not really what happened, that it’s one of man’s traditions distorting a vague passage of the Bible, even though “He descended into Hell” is in the Apostle’s Creed.
I’ve even seen the Apostle’s Creed altered.
In the Evangelical Free Church, someone once asked, “What about the people who died before Christ’s death?”
The pastor said, “We don’t know. We think they were able to go to Heaven if they believed in the promise of the Messiah.”
Which is entirely different from what my Nazarene dad taught me. He taught me about the Harrowing of Hades, though he didn’t use that term. What he taught me was very close to the Orthodox teaching, though there are differences.
Also, the ancient Israelites were not big on evangelization, so only small pockets of people would have believed in a Messiah. I also wonder how early and how prevalent a belief in a Messiah was, anyway.
I’ve held onto the hope for all my life that the pagan dead of the Old Testament were saved when Christ preached to them in Hades, so it was devastating to hear this teaching may be wrong.
When I discovered the Orthodox teaching of the Harrowing of Hades, it was a great relief.
Verily, Jonah the Prophet was caught, but not held in the belly of the whale.
For being an impression of You, Who suffered and was given over to burial, he sprang forth from the whale as from a chamber, and said to the watchmen: ‘Falsely, and in vain do you guard, O watchmen; for you have neglected your own mercy.’
Showing how the Old Testament prefigures the story of Christ even in its own stories.
The fall of Adam resulted in the death to Man, but not to God; for though the substance of Your earthly body suffered, Your Divinity remained passionless, transforming the corruptible into incorruption, and showed it to be the fountain of Resurrection for immortal Life.
The Godhead of Christ was one with the Father and the Spirit, without separation in the tomb and in Eden, for the salvation of us who sing.
Answering the question many have: Did God die on the Cross? Did God suffer?
Written in 2008
Index to my theology/church opinion pages:
–End Times and Christian Zionism
–God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine
–Cat and Dog Theology
–Raising One’s Hands in Worship
–On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
–On church buildings
–The Message Bible
–The Purpose-Driven Life
–The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers
–The idea that God has someone in mind for you
–Literalism in Biblical interpretation
–Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology, Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
–More about Pat Robertson
–Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
–Women in Marriage/the Church
–Why do bad things happen?
–Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts? Or, how should we evangelize, then?
–Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
–Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
–Hell and the Nature of God
–Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday?
–Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
–How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples?
–What about predestination?
–Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship
–An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God
–Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go?
–Are Spiritual Marriages “real”? (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated)
–Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
–What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
–Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
–What is Worship?
–Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
–Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge
–Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
–Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week