Saturday, March 22, 2008

Contemplating "Descending into Hell"

That part of the Creed has always been a part of some controversy. Earlier I posted a Ancient Holy Saturday Homily that I think gives the Catholic Understanding of it.

On Good Friday and on Holy Saturday at least till tonight's service there are no Masses. We are re living the central moment in Salvation history these three Holy days. Today Christ is no longer with us!!! or at least we are going back to that time and trying to experience it in a special way. In fact tonight's extensive Liturgy of the word gives us Salvation History in its grand scope tonight and we know of course the glorious outcome.

There is a great post over at Vox Nova called “Descended into Hell” — Exploring God’s silence. I love this part:
Sheol, Hell, and Death Scholars claim that the word “hell” in this article of the Creed may be a false translation of the word sheol, which meant in the Old Testament a state after death characterized by nothingness. Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Introduction to Christianity, challenges this interpretation of “hell”, which only implies that Jesus died, and inquires further into the meaning of hell and death.

It is in our human nature to be afraid of loneliness. According to the Pope, if we face certain situations, such as being alone in the presence of a corpse, for instance, we will become afraid of the body even though we are aware that we will not get hurt by it. However, if someone else would be in the room with us, our fears would go away, because we would no longer be alone faced with death.

Because we enter into death by ourselves with no one accompanying us, death is also considered as utter loneliness under the Old Testament definition of sheol. This is why the Pope defines death as “absolute loneliness,” but goes further into saying that hell is “death into which love cannot longer reach.” [2].

Isn't that true. I find it also sort of nice in a way that perhaps even Popes understand the feeling about being around a dead body alone. I never thought of why we get the heebee jeebies in that situation but he hits it on the head why we do. There used to be a tradition here in the South especially that people would stay up with the body. I suppose this comes from when people had funerals in their home or the body was in the Church itself.. I suspect that Funeral Homes frown on this practice of having people "staying up with the body" at their business. So I guess people had experience being around dead folks alone more than we do now.

Anyway good post. The Catechism has this to say here about this part of the creed and history.

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