Alan writes – On ‘Holy Saturday’ we see that Christ died. Really died and so the incarnation is complete. Christ leads us where, for us, there is the promise of the eternal arms of God and a reality of such wonder that we cannot begin to imagine. But before this new reality comes into play Christ dies. Christ is buried. Christ descends.
For the Word must go into that place of absolute and utter silence; the complete antithesis of Jesus very essence. Here the communion between Father and Son is stretched to breaking point as love becomes an infinite compassion embracing the full depths from heaven to hell; and thus allowing the Son to enter the realm of utter Godforsakenness.
Von Balthasar says - “On Holy Saturday there is the descent of the dead Jesus to hell, that is . . . his solidarity in the period of non-time with those who have lost their way to God. Their choice, with which they have chosen to put their ‘I’ in the place of God’s selfless love, is definitive.”
This is where Jesus descends. Here he is utter solidarity, complete incarnation, not as the victor, not as the messenger, but as the dead among the dead, the utter Godforsaken among the utter Godforsaken. He is left with nothing but being dead with the dead.
Here Jesus is totally abandoned …God’s ultimate mercy on those who have definitively chosen to be damned apart from God. Here in their utter damnedness, and isolation in a loveless self entombment they find God alongside them in the absolute weakness of an unfathomable love.
Or as the psalmist wrote - “If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!” Psalm 139 v 8 (RSV) or The NIV - If I were to dig down to the world of the dead you would also be there.”