Tag Archives: Hell

Death was strangled…

…and other images of atonement are the subject of Fr. Stephen Freeman’s post Knocking Down the Gates of Hell, in which he shares the findings of a research paper he once wrote on Martin Luther’s hymns. Luther’s own atonement theology highly favored the imagery that also dominates that of the early church fathers, in which Christ smashes the gates of Hell and frees all those in chains.

Fr. Stephen shares several verses from various exuberant Orthodox Paschal hymns we are singing this month, such as these I excerpted from his post:

Hell, who had filled all men with fear,
Trembled at the sight of Thee,
And in haste he yielded up his prisoners,
O Immortal Sun of Glory.

Thou hast destroyed the palaces of hell by Thy Burial, O Christ.
Thou hast trampled death down by Thy death, O Lord,
And redeemed earth’s children from corruption.

Though Thou art buried in a grave, O Christ,
Though Thou goest down to hell, O Savior,
Thou hast stripped hell naked, emptying its graves.

Death seized Thee, O Jesus,
And was strangled in Thy trap.
Hell’s gates were smashed, the fallen were set free,
And carried from beneath the earth on high.

Thou didst will, O Savior,
To go beneath the earth.
Thou didst free death’s fallen captives from their chains,
Leading them from earth to heaven.

In the earth’s dark bosom
The Grain of Wheat is laid.
By its death, it shall bring forth abundant fruit:
Adam’s sons, freed from the chains of death.

Wishing to save Adam,
Thou didst come down to earth.
Not finding him on earth, O Master,
Thou didst descend to Hades seeking him.

The Paschal icon shows the resurrected Christ pulling Adam and others out of Hades.


It’s Bright Monday as I write. This morning’s Divine Liturgy was splendid and full of love and light. We are all giddy with joy and fatigue, and can’t stop greeting one another with kisses and proclamations of “Christ is risen!” In the Paschal Canon where we sing, “Let us embrace each other joyously!” I always hope I will be standing next to someone I can hug at that moment. Today two women I didn’t know were the closest, and I made so bold as to hug them both at once, which they didn’t seem to mind. gl - EB

I realized just in time for the midnight service of Pascha Saturday/Sunday, something I have had to call to mind again and again over the last months, that wherever my late husband is, he lives in the present. The part of me that grieves for his presence the way it used to be, as my earthly lover and companion, can never be satisfied; it is a longing for the past, and God is giving me instead Himself and all His gifts in this present moment. My dear Mr. Glad does not live “back there” in the past, either!

It’s because the various parts of me are not all united that my heart’s faith and love must keep instructing my mind — and other tangled and erratic parts? — that to be here right now with God is the way to stay close to my husband. In the reality of the Resurrection and our Blessed Hope, in the gathering of time and times that is kairos, he and I are more together than we have ever been, and in Love.

gl rose pascha 16


One sweet thing about Pascha coming so late this year is that roses are blooming all over. We have dozens of rosebushes at church that are loaded with flowers (not to mention the white roses that filled bouquets decorating inside the church.) This morning I took a picture of one favorite, to decorate this blog post. Happy Spring! Christ is risen! If you have read this far, I send you my Easter love!


To be without God and to die of it.

I find myself in a phase of grief where from time to time during the day I feel acutely lost without my husband, the absence of him like a soreness in my spirit, an ache in the middle of my chest telling me that something is very wrong with me. Yes, something is wrong!! It’s death that is wrong – it’s wrong for us to be separated, for me to lose the heart of my heart. I have known this truth in my mind and for the world generally – now I understand it in my bones.

Crucifixion wikimediaBut as I’ve said here more than once already, I have the peaceful assurance that we are not absolutely separated, and a huge thankfulness as well that neither of us has been cut off from the Source of our life and existence. Sometimes we humans use the figure of speech that we will “die of grief,” because it feels that wrenching. But I know even as I am feeling it and railing against it, that I will live through it. This is all because Christ suffered for us, and he overcame death. My pain is like a pinprick compared to what Christ endured on our behalf. As  for my husband, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”

These words from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom that I first read in God and Man two years ago are even more meaningful to me on this Holy Saturday:

When in the Apostles’ Creed we repeat “And he descended into Hell,” we very often think “That’s one of those expressions,” and we think of Dante and of the place where all those poor people are being tortured with such inventiveness by God.

But the Hell of the Old Testament has nothing to do with the spectacular hell of Christian literature. The Hell of the Old Testament is something infinitely more horrid; it is the place where God is not. It is the place of final dereliction; it’s the place where you continue to exist and there is no life left.


And when we say that he descended into Hell, we mean that having accepted the loss of God, to be one of us in the only major tragedy of that kind, he accepted also the consequences and goes to the place where God is not, to the place of final dereliction; and there, as ancient hymns put it, the Gates of Hell open to receive Him who was unconquered on earth and who now is conquered, a prisoner, and they receive this man who has accepted death in an immortal humanity, and Godlessness without sin, and they are confronted with the divine presence because he is both man and God, and Hell is destroyed — there is no place left where God is not.

The old prophetic song is fulfilled, “Where shall I flee from thy face — in Heaven is thy throne, in Hell (understand in Hebrew — the place where you are not), you are also.” This is the measure of Christ’s solidarity with us, of his readiness to identify himself, not only with our misery but with our godlessness. If you think of that, you will realise that there is not one atheist on earth who has ever plunged into the depths of godlessness that the Son of God, become the Son of Man, has done. He is the only one who knows what it means to be without God and to die of it.

— Metropolitan Anthony Bloom