Tag Archives: Harrowing of Hell

Orthodox Church quotes about the harrowing of Hell

St. Ephraim the Syrian: If he was not flesh . . . And if he was not God . . .

JesusThe facts themselves bear witness and his divine acts of power teach those who doubt that he is true God, and his sufferings show that he is true man. And if those who are feeble in understanding are not fully assured, they will pay the penalty on his dread day.

If he was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if he was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?

If he was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?

If he was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if he was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if he was not God, in whose honour did the star speed through the heavens?

If he was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if he was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?

If he was not flesh, whom did Symeon carry in his arms? And if he was not God, to whom did he say, “Let me depart in peace”?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph take and flee into Egypt? And if he was not God, in whom were words “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” fulfilled?

If he was not flesh, whom did John baptise? And if he was not God, to whom did the Father from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”?

If he was not flesh, who fasted and hungered in the desert? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and serve?

If he was not flesh, who was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee? And if he was not God, who turned the water into wine?

If he was not flesh, in whose hands were the loaves? And if he was not God, who satisfied crowds and thousands in the desert, not counting women and children, from five loaves and two fishes?

If he was not flesh, who fell asleep in the boat? And if he was not God, who rebuked the winds and the sea?

If he was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee eat? And if he was not God, who pardoned the offences of the sinful woman?

If he was not flesh, who sat by the well, worn out by the journey? And if he was not God, who gave living water to the woman of Samaria and reprehended her because she had had five husbands?

If he was not flesh, who wore human garments? And if he was not God, who did acts of power and wonders?

If he was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if he was not God, who through the clay compelled the eyes to see?

If he was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if he was not God, who by his command brought out one four days dead?

If he was not flesh, who sat on the foal? And if he was not God, whom did the crowds go out to meet with glory?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest? And if he was not God, who gave an order to the earth and threw them onto their faces.

If he was not flesh, who was struck with a blow? And if he was not God, who cured the ear that had been cut off by Peter and restored it to its place?

If he was not flesh, who received spittings on his face? And if he was not God, who breathed the Holy Spirit into the faces of his Apostles?

If he was not flesh, who stood before Pilate at the judgement seat? And if he was not God, who made Pilate’s wife afraid by a dream?

If he was not flesh, whose garments did the soldiers strip off and divide? And if he was not God, how was the sun darkened at the cross?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on the cross? And if he was not God, who shook the earth from its foundations?

If he was not flesh, whose hands and feet were transfixed by nails? And if he was not God, how was the veil of the temple rent, the rocks broken and the graves opened?

If he was not flesh, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”? And if he was not God, who said “Father, forgive them”?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on a cross with the thieves? And if he was not God, how did he say to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

If he was not flesh, to whom did they offer vinegar and gall? And if he was not God, on hearing whose voice did Hades tremble?

If he was not flesh, whose side did the lance pierce, and blood and water came out?And if he was not God, who smashed to gates of Hades and tear apart it bonds? And at whose command did the imprisoned dead come out?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the upper room? And if he was not God, how did he enter when the doors were shut?

If he was not flesh, the marks of the nails and the lance in whose hands and side did Thomas handle? And if he was not God, to whom did he cry out, “My Lord and my God”?

If he was not flesh, who ate by the sea of Tiberias? And if he was not God, at whose command was the net filled?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles and Angels see being taken up into heaven? And if he was not God, to whom was heaven opened, whom did the Powers worship in fear and whom did the Father invite to “Sit at my right hand”. As David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, etc.”

If he was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies.  But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies. The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded.

+ St. Ephrem the Syrian, Excerpt from the Sermon on Transfiguration

St. Justin Popovich: In truth there is only one freedom . . .

Icon of St. Justin Popovich“In truth there is only one freedom – the holy freedom of Christ, whereby He freed us from sin, from evil, from the devil. It binds us to God. All other freedoms are illusory, false, that is to say, they are all, in fact, slavery.”

+ St. Justin Popovich, Ascetical and Theological Chapters, II.36

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: . . . A mother’s love cannot separate her dead children from those living . . .

Orthodox Graves JordanvilleDeath has one characteristic in common with love: it, like love, works a profound change in many that experience it and go on living. A mother after a funeral goes to the graves of her children. Who goes there? The children in the mother’s soul, with the mother, go to their graves. In a mother’s soul, the mother lives only in one little corner; all the rest is a palace for the souls of the children taken from her.

So it is with Christ, though to an immeasurably greater extent. He submitted to the confines of the grave so that men, His children, should know the spaciousness of the limitless palace of Paradise.

A mother goes to the graves of her children, as though to raise them to life in her soul, to redeem them by her tears, to have compassion on them by her thoughts. A mother’s love saves her children from disappearance and annihilation in this world, at least for a time.

The Lord, humiliated and spat upon, succeeded, through bowing to His Cross and Tomb, in truly raising the whole human race by His love, and saving it forever from vanishing away and being annihilated. Christ’s act is incomparably greater than the act of any lonely mother in the world, His love for the human race being immeasurably greater than the love of any mother in the world for her children.

Theotokos Softener Evil HeartsAlthough a mother, out of her great love and sorrow, always has tears to shed, she takes her remaining tears with her when she herself goes down into the grave. The Lord Jesus, though, shed all His tears for His children, to the last drop – and all His blood to the last drop. Never, O sinner, will more precious tears be shed for you, neither living nor dead. Never will a mother, or wife, or children, or homeland, pay more for you than Christ the Saviour paid.

O poor and lonely man – do not say: who will mourn for me when I die? Who will weep over my dead body? Lo, the Lord Christ has mourned for you and wept over you, both in life and in death, more whole-heartedly than your mother would for you.

It is not fitting to call those dead for whom Christ, in His love, suffered and died. They are alive in the living Lord. We shall all know this clearly when the Lord visits the graveyard of this world for the last time, and the trumpets sound.

A mother’s love cannot separate her dead children from those living. Still less can Christ’s love. The Lord is more discerning than the sun: He sees the approaching end of those still alive on earth, and sees the beginning of life for those who have entered into rest. For Him who created the earth from nothing, and man’s body from the earth, there is no difference between the earth’s, or his body’s, being a man’s grave. Grain lying in the field or stored in a granary – what difference does this make to the householder, who is thinking in both cases of the grain, and not of the straw or the granary? Whether men are in the body or in the earth – what difference does this make to the Householder of men’s souls?

Coming on earth, the Lord paid two visits to men: the first to those living in the grave of the body and the second to those in the grave of the earth. He died in order to visit His dead children. Ah, how very truly a mother dies when she goes to the graves of her children!

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women”

Lenten Triodion: Rejoice, divine Cross, formed from three different kinds of wood . . .

Icon CrossRejoice, divine Cross, formed from three different kinds of wood: on thee One of the Trinity was nailed in the flesh. He has delivered us who were prisoners in the abyss of godlessness, and we exalt Him above all for ever.*

Receiving power and strength through the Cross, the disciples of the Word set free those held fast in bitter bondage by the evil one, and they sing in praise: We exalt Thee above all for ever.

Woe is me! How fearful shall be that judgement seat on which Thou shalt sit, O Word, and shalt reveal to me my hidden deeds, exposing before all my want of feeling! But since, O Christ, Thou art by nature full of love, spare me then.

* Isa. 60:13 (Sept.).

— Ode 8, Matins,  Fourth Thursday of Lent, Lenten Triodion

Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare: Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay . . .

Icon Adam Created 3Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay, upon the infirmity and meanness of our nature. Let us behold our end, and the organs of the vessel of our flesh. Let us see that man is dust, food for worms, and corruption; that our bones grow dry, and have no breath of life within them. Let us gaze on the tombs. Where is man’s glory? Where his outward beauty? Where is the eloquent tongue? Where the noble brow, and where the eye? All is dust and shadow. Therefore, Saviour, spare us all.

Why does man deceive himself and boast? Why does he trouble himself in vain? For he is earth, and soon to the earth he will return. Why does the dust not reflect that it is formed from clay, and cast out as rottenness and corruption? Yet though we men are clay, why do we cling so closely to the earth? For if we are Christ’s kindred, should we not run to him, leaving all this mortal and fleeting life, And seeking the life incorruptible, Which is Christ himself, the illumination of our souls?

Thou hast formed Adam with thine hand, O Saviour, and set him on the border between incorruption and mortality; thou hast made him share in life through grace, freeing him from corruption and translating him to the life that he enjoyed at first. Give rest, O Master, to thy servants thou hast taken from us; may they dwell with the righteous in the choir of thine elect; write their names in the book of life; raise them with the sound of the Archangel’s trump, and count them worthy of thy heavenly Kingdom.

Christ is risen, releasing from bondage Adam the first-formed man and destroying the power of hell. Be of good courage, all ye dead, for death is slain and hell despoiled; the crucified and risen Christ is King. He has given incorruption to our flesh; he raises us and grants us resurrection, and He counts worthy of his joy and glory all who, with a faith that wavers not, have trusted fervently in him.

— Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare, Lenten Triodion, p. 139

St. John of Kronstadt: Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ (Part 4)

Nativity of Jesus“Let us glorify God! With the coming of the Son of God in the flesh upon the earth, with His offering Himself up as a sacrifice for the sinful human race, there is given to those who believe the blessing of the Heavenly Father, replacing that curse which had been uttered by God in the beginning; they are adopted and receive the promise of an eternal inheritance of life. To a humanity orphaned by reason of sin, the Heavenly Father returns anew through the mystery of re-birth, that is, through baptism and repentance. People are freed of the tormenting, death-bearing authority of the devil, of the afflictions of sin and of various passions.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

Read Full Sermon at Pravoslavie

From the Russian text appearing in Chapter 2 of “Solntse Pravdy: O Zhizni i Uchenii Gospoda Nashego, Iisusa Khrista” [“The Sun of Righteousness: On the Life and Teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ”], by Protopriest [Saint] Ioann [John] (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, pp. 4-6. Translated into English by G. Spruksts.

St. John of Kronstadt: Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ (Part 2)

Jesus“Why, and for what reason, was there such condescension [shown] on the part of the Creator toward His transgressing creatures – toward humanity which, through an act of its own will had fallen away from God, its Creator? It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined for eternal suffering and torment.”

From the Russian text appearing in Chapter 2 of “Solntse Pravdy: O Zhizni i Uchenii Gospoda Nashego, Iisusa Khrista” [“The Sun of Righteousness: On the Life and Teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ”], by Protopriest [Saint] Ioann [John] (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, pp. 4-6. Translated into English by G. Spruksts.

+ St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

Read Full Sermon at Pravoslavie

From the Russian text appearing in Chapter 2 of “Solntse Pravdy: O Zhizni i Uchenii Gospoda Nashego, Iisusa Khrista” [“The Sun of Righteousness: On the Life and Teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ”], by Protopriest [Saint] Ioann [John] (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, pp. 4-6. Translated into English by G. Spruksts.