Today, Holy Saturday, is observed by the Western and Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, and other denominations as the Anastasis (Greek, “resurrection”), or the Harrowing of Hell by Jesus Christ.
In this harrowing, Christ’s purpose was to free the righteous people of the Old and New Testaments from their inability to enter Heaven. This occurred because of their death prior to the passion and death of Jesus. His Redemptive acts freed them from what Roman Catholics would call Purgatory and the Eastern Rites and some Protestant denominations would call Hades.
There are over fifteen verses and references found in both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures that mention Hades. It is also discussed in non-canonical apocryphal writings such as the Gospel of Nicodemus. Its referred to as Purgatory because it is “the state of those souls who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purgation to enter into the happiness of Heaven” (CCCC; para. 210, see notation below).
An analogy for Purgatory, though limited, would be the understanding that you cannot enter a beautiful wedding without showering and dressing appropriately. Hell, however, is the place of eternal damnation for those who through reason and free will die in the state of unconfessed mortal sin. They have deliberately intended to separate from the love of God by pursuing and participating in deadly sins.
Please enjoy another Fra Angelico fresco of the Resurrection of Christ. I wish you a happy and blessed Easter!
CCCC: refers to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd edition, 2012.
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