May 5, 2024

Homily on Holy Saturday: At Last Death Has Been Trampled (Archimandrite Kirill Pavlov)

Homily on Holy Saturday

At Last Death Has Been Trampled

By Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)

(Delivered in 1964)
"Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and in itself consider nothing earthly; for the King of kings and Lord of lords cometh forth to be sacrificed, and given as food to the believers...."

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Today the Holy Church commemorates the descent of the Lord Jesus Christ into hades and His bringing out from there the souls of all the Old Testament righteous who were imbued with faith in the coming Messiah.

The present day, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, once became a day of decisive and final struggle, a struggle for life and death between two kingdoms - the kingdom of darkness and evil and the kingdom of good and light. Satan, disgraced by Jesus Christ in the desert, has by now managed to inflame the hearts of the Savior’s enemies with the strongest anger against Him - to such an extent that no human is ever able to reach.

The enemies of Christ were so influenced by the spirit of malice that their rage against the Lord Jesus went completely beyond the bounds of not only moderation and decency, but also common sense. Christ died on the Cross and was buried; and, it would seem, what else do they need when they have achieved their goal? But their malice does not calm down on this, it does not give rest to the Dead, insulting Him, calling Him before Pilate a flatterer and a deceiver, to assure His tomb is sealed and a guard is assigned to it.

But the tomb and the guards could not hold back the Life-Giver. Then human malice resorts to bribery, gives money to the guards - as long as they do not tell the truth, thus deciding not only to outrage the truth in general and the Divine truth in particular, but also to enter into direct struggle with it. There is nowhere to go further: to have all the evidence of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ and at the same time make every effort to prevent this truth from becoming known to the people - what could be more vile than such an act!

But while human malice was mocking the highest truth and love, at that very moment the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin, was finally defeating our primordial enemy - the devil - and all his dark power. The evil one, having heard the cry of the Only Begotten from the Cross: "My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46 ), in his insane blindness, he thought: “If this Jesus were the only begotten of the Father, then the Father would not have forsaken Him.” Therefore, Satan was already triumphant, anticipating that he was about to receive the soul of this Righteous One for eternal residence in the depths of hades.

But while he is so rejoicing in his darkness and blindness, the dungeons of hades are suddenly illuminated and the Only Begotten Son of God, united with the human soul, appears before Satan and all the dark forces. The power of the enemy was dumbfounded when he saw Jesus Christ and realized her mistake. Divine love finally triumphed over satanic malice. Satan, seeing himself and his entire horde bound, and seeing the prisoners being led out of prison into the heavenly abodes, greatly trembled and was horrified.

Henceforth the name of Jesus is terrible for demons, and the sign of the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross is unbearable and intolerable for them. True, even now the spirits of evil live in the space of the air and are looking for someone to devour (1 Pet.5:8 ), but no longer as princes, but as thieves. They have influence only on those who voluntarily surrender to them.

Having won victory over Satan, the Savior solemnly conveys the souls of the Old Testament righteous to the heavenly abodes, and then His soul returns to His body, lying in the tomb - and now it comes to life and is itself spiritualized. Death has been trampled upon in the end - Christ has risen! Peace to you! (John 20:19 ) - He proclaims to His disciples, appearing to them after the Resurrection, and the peace that comes from Heaven and surpasses all understanding fills their hearts with joyful trembling. Inspired by Divine forgiveness, benevolence and grace, they are filled after this with incomprehensible courage to peoples and tribes that do not know God, with a sermon about the Crucified One, with the word of peace, love, truth, freedom, brotherhood, and their word, which at first seemed like this madness to the world, over time it is accepted with love by pagan kings and sages and entire nations. And so the Conqueror of hades and death finally reveals Himself as the Conqueror of sin and all the evil brought into the world through the devil by the sin of the first man.

Remembering today the descent of the Savior of the world into hades and His removal from there of all the Old Testament righteous and the very victory over hades, we should, dear brothers and sisters, rejoice, because now we celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hades, the beginning of another eternal life. We must always rejoice in the Lord, because Christ is our trust and our hope - both in this earthly life and in the Life to Come, according to His true promise: "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 ). Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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