The Great and Holy Sabbath: the death of death

Written by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, an Orthodox priest, about the liturgy for the day between Good Friday and Easter.  It includes a good explanation of why Jesus died:  what His dying, descending into Hades, and his resurrection accomplished; and why it was necessary for man’s salvation.  The beginning:

The “Great and Holy Sabbath” is the day which connects Good Friday, the commemoration of the Cross, with the day of Christ’s Resurrection. To many the real nature and meaning of this “connection,” the very necessity of this “middle day,” remains obscure. For a good majority of churchgoers, the “important” days of Holy Week are Friday and Sunday, the Cross and the Resurrection. These two days, however, remain somehow “disconnected.” There is a day of sorrow, and then, there is the day of joy. In this sequence, sorrow is simply replaced by joy . . . But according to the teaching of the Church, expressed in her liturgical tradition, the nature of this sequence is not that of a simple replacement. The Church proclaims that Christ has “trampled death by death.” It means that even before the Resurrection, an event takes place in which the sorrow is not simply replaced by joy, but is itself transformed into joy. Great Saturday is precisely this day of transformation, the day when victory grows from inside the defeat, when before the Resurrection, we are given to contemplate the death of death itself… all this is expressed, and even more, all this really takes place every year in this marvellous morning service, in this liturgical commemoration which becomes for us a saving and transforming present.

You can read the rest here.  It isn’t that long, and it is an appropriate read today, the day in-between.

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