Every time we say the creed, we note that Jesus “descended into hell.”
This day–Holy Saturday–is the day that commemorates this event.
What happened on this day, and how do we celebrate it?
Here are 12 things you need to know.
1. What happened on the first Holy Saturday?
Here on earth, Jesus’ disciples mourned his death and, since it was a sabbath day, they rested.
Luke notes that the women returned home “and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).
At the tomb, the guards that had been stationed there kept watch over the place to make sure that the disciples did not steal Jesus’ body.
Meanwhile . . .
2. What happened to Jesus while he was dead?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.
Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:
“It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”
Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.
634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment.
This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.