Sunday, May 17, 2009

"He Descended Into Hell (in Greek - Hades). . "

We always begin the rosary with the sign of the cross. After making the sign of the cross we then say the Apostles Creed. It's at this time, during the Apostles Creed where I seem to make an involuntary pause around the 4th line of the prayer. After we announce that Christ was crucified, died and was buried we say, "He descended into hell (in Greek, Hades)." This part of the prayer has always caused me to stammer because I've never fully understood it. I even remember having trouble explaining this to Melissa during her conversion. As always, having a little background and looking towards scripture can help all of us come to understand more about our Catholic Faith.

The word "hell" (in Greek, Hades) refers to the place of the dead prior to Jesus' resurrection (Acts 2:27). Hades was the place where all souls, both the righteous and the unrighteous, were detained immediately after death. No soul could go to heaven until Jesus appeased God's wrath against sin by His propitiatory sacrifice, and was raised from the dead.

By virtue of His death and resurrection, God gave Jesus the "keys of death and hell (Rev 1:17-18)," which represents Jesus' power to release these souls from Hades. This is why, immediately after He died (He was crucified, died and was buried), Jesus "descended into hell" and preached the Gospel to the souls in Hades! The righteous souls were now released to heaven, while the unrighteous souls were condemned to eternal punishment. The gates of hell, which formerly kept souls from heaven, can no longer do so because Jesus has the Keys.

I hope this helps all of us understand the Apostles Creed a little more. And if for some reason, Matthew 16 came to mind after just hearing about; keys, hell (hades) and the idea of authority over souls, you're on the right track. We'll touch on that on a later post.

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