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The Harrowing of Hell

The Harrowing of Hell

Resurrection2“The icon of the Harrowing of Hell reminds us that God reaches into the deepest depths to pull forth souls into the kingdom of light. It reminds us how much we are unable to comprehend – let alone take to heart as our own – our creedal statement about Christ’s descent into Hell – ‘He descended into Hell.’


Christ’s descent into Hell is captured in Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, which is part of one of the appointed readings for tomorrow week. In one of our readings this evening (I Peter 3:15b- 4:8), we are told that when Christ died he went and preached to the spirits in prison ‘who in former times did not obey … For this is the reason the Gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that … they might live in the spirit as God does.’

[…]The Early Church taught that after his death Christ descended into hell and rescued all the souls, starting with Adam and Eve, who had died under the Fall.

The Harrowing of Hell is intimately bound up with the Resurrection, the Raising from the Dead, for as Christ is raised from the dead he also plummets the depths to bring up, to raise up, those who are dead. The Harrowing of Hell carries us into the gap in time between Christ’s death and resurrection.”

From the first of a series of Holy Saturday meditations by the Rev. Patrick Comerford here. (There are five in total.)

Also, here is a video we made at Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Arizona a few years ago on the subject:

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Clint Davis

I can't understand the Harrowing of Hell as a one time, one off event, for by its very nature, such a thing is outside of time. I trust that this Harrowing of Hell is always happening, that Hell gives up the dead to the power of Christ all the time, and that no one-and I mean no one-is left there.

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