What is happening?
Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and stillness, for the King sleeps. The earth was frightened and became still, for God fell asleep in the flesh, and raised up those who from ages past were sleeping. God died in the flesh, and Hell shuddered. God slumbered briefly, and he awoke the inhabitants of Death.
Today is salvation for all on the earth, and for those who from ages past are beneath the earth. Today is salvation for the world, the visible and the invisible. You who from ages past have fallen asleep, rejoice! God is with the dead. The un-darkening Light is with those in darkness; The Liberator is with the captives.
Yesterday he was bound; today he binds the tyrant with unbreakable bonds. Yesterday he was condemned; today he bestows liberty on the condemned. Yesterday Pilate’s lackeys mocked him; today Hell’s gatekeepers see him and tremble.
Upon His birth, he was wrapped in swaddling bands, and here, he is wrapped in swaddling bands. When he was born, he received myrrh, and at His burial, he receives myrrh and aloes. Then “Joseph” was the name of Mary’s husband, but now “Joseph of Arimathaea” is the one who buried our Life.
We see him lying under the earth who drew all humanity on high. He for a brief time has no breath who is the breath of all. He lies prostrate who is the “standing up” of all. What lamps can we light for the “true Light which enlightens every person”? What funeral odes can we chant for him who is hymned unceasingly by all the heavenly hosts?
He goes to seek out Adam, the first-created, the lost sheep. He wishes to visit those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death; he goes to free Adam the captive and his cocaptive Eve from the trap of pain. He is both her God and her Son.
The friend of humanity goes with great gallantry and might to lead out hose that are held captive from ages past, those who dwell in the grave, whom bitter death has tyrannically swallowed, oppressed, and stolen from God and hoarded in desolation.
In deepest Hell he found Adam, the captive, the first-created, the first-born. Over there is Abel, the first to die, and type of Christ the Shepherd’s unjust slaughter. There is Noah, the type of Christ, the Fashioner of the great Ark of God's Church. There is Abraham, the sacrificer and father—of Christ, who sacrificed to God that most blessed Sacrifice which dealt death to death.
The patriarchs and prophets all cried together “Stir up your might and come to save us.” The God of tender mercies heard all these cries, and so Christ visited Hell. Let us go with him to Hell so as there to see how he masterfully mastered the tyrannical master of a mastership mightily mastered, and how by the lightning flash of his brilliance, he without hands, captured in His hand the whole army of Hell’s deathless orders. He took away the doorless doors: Christ the Door shattered those woodless gates by the wood of the Cross; by those divine nails he burst and broke the eternal bars; by the bonds of His Divine hands, he dissolved like wax the indissoluble bonds; and by the spear thrust in His side, he pierced the heart of the tyrant. “There did he break the power of the bow,” when upon the Cross he stretched out the sinews of His Divine arms like a archer. Yesterday, he refused to summon numerous legions of angels, but today, in a manner befitting God, a warrior and a sovereign, through death he tramples down the tyrant of Hell and death and all his legions.
The powers of Hell were terrified, they were shaken, they were awestruck, they were confounded, they were changed, they were frightened, they were dumbstruck and stupified, confused, and made to quake.
Then Adam, the first of humanity to be created, the first-fashioned and first-mortal, who lay bound with great security in the innermost recesses, heard the sound of his Master's feet as Christ came to the imprisoned, and he recognized His voice, which he last heard in Paradise. Adam turned towards all his fellow captives from ages past and said, “I hear the sound of feet advancing towards us, and if he comes to this place, we shall be freed of our bonds; if we see him here, we shall be delivered from Hell!”
As Adam said these things, the Master entered, holding the Cross as a weapon of victory. Adam saw him, beat his breast in joy, and cried to all, “My Lord be with you all!” And Christ replied to Adam, “And with your spirit,” and grasping his hand, Christ said, “Stand up,
‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine on you.’ I am your God, who for your sake became your Son, for your sake and for your descendants’ sake, and now I say to the shackled, ‘Come forth!’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be enlightened!’ and to those asleep, Arise!’ I order you. ‘Awake, O sleeper!’ for I did not fashion you to be held in Hell as a captive.
‘Arise from the dead,’ for I am the Life of the dead! Arise, let us go from here!’ for you are are in me and I in you; we are one indivisible person.’”
“For your sake, your God, became your Son; for your sake, the Master took the image of a slave; for your sake, I Who am above the heavens, came down upon earth; for you, a mere man, I became ‘a man without help, free among the dead;’ for you, who was driven from the garden of Paradise, I was betrayed in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
“See on my cheeks the slaps which I accepted so as to make straight your twisted form. See on my back the lacerations which I accepted so as to scatter the burden of your sins which weighs upon your back. See my hands, which were nailed to the Cross for you, who stretched out your hands to a tree. I slept upon the Cross and a sword pierced my side for you, for from your side Eve was brought while you were sleeping in Paradise. My side healed the pain of your side; My sleep shall wrest you from the sleep of Death.
“Arise, let us go from here! The foe led you out of the land of Paradise, yet I will restore you to a celestial throne. I restrained you from the tree of life, but look, I myself, the true life, am united to you. I ordered the Cherubim to watch over you like a slave; now I make the Cherubim to worship you like God.
“Arise, let us go from here, from death into life, from corruption in incorruption, from darkness into everlasting light! Arise, let us go from here, from affliction into joy, from slavery into freedom, from prison into the Jerusalem on high! Arise, let us go from here, from bonds into repose, from detention into the delight of Paradise, from earth into Heaven! For this I died, and for this I rose, that I should be Lord both of the dead and the living.”
“Arise, let us go from here! My Heavenly Father waits for the sheep that was lost. The bridal-chamber is made ready, the banquet is prepared, the eternal dwellings are waiting, the treasuries of good things are thrown open, the Kingdom of the Heavens has been prepared from before the ages.”