Where is Christ after he dies on Friday afternoon and before he rises on Easter Sunday?


Where is Christ after he dies on Friday afternoon and before he rises on Easter Sunday?  Both Scripture and Tradition answer this question. Consider the following from a Second Century Sermon and also a mediation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

An Ancient Sermon:

 Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.” [From an Ancient Holy Saturday Homily ca 2nd Century]

   Consider also this from the Catechism which I summarize and excerpt from CCC # 631-635

 [The] first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell [is]  that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.[Acts 3:15; 1 Peter 3:18-19; Romans 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20; Heb. 13:20] Scripture calls [this] 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.[1 Peter 3:18-19] Such [was] the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they awaited the Redeemer: It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior …whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”[cfPsalms 89:49; 1 Sam. 28:19; Ezek 32:17ff; Luke 16:22-26] 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. [So] the gospel was preached even to the dead. The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment. 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. Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”[1 Peter 4:6] Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”[John 5:25; Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9] Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”[Heb 2:14-15; Acts 3:15]

For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God. (1 Peter 4:6)

7 Replies to “Where is Christ after he dies on Friday afternoon and before he rises on Easter Sunday?”

  1. This afternoon we went to Stations of the Cross. My 3rd-grader c followed along with the readings.

    c: Why are there THREE stations for Jesus falling down?
    Me: It’s part of the story.
    c: I don’t think falling down needs to be in there THREE times.
    Me: Ask Fr A after church tonight.

    So, after church c approached Fr A and announced she had a question.

    c: Why does Jesus fall THREE times during Stations of the Cross?
    Fr A: It’s to show how weak He was, that he could be hurt even though he was the Son of God.
    c: *blink*
    Fr A: (sensing that c was not finding his answer satisfactory) He had been beaten, and he had to carry a heavy cross.
    c: *sigh* OK
    My husband: Be glad she didn’t ask you why she wasn’t allowed to be Pope.

    As we drove home c continued to mutter that having THREE stations for falling down was TOO MANY and people fall down a LOT and you don’t read about EVERY time someone FALLS DOWN because they probably weren’t watching out and tripped over a rock and…(at this point we changed the subject by noting that as SOON as we got home c would have to get ready for bed.)

    I think c wants a reason for each station. Are there any books appropriate for a 4th/5th grade reading level about how the traditional Stations came to be?

    1. Well, three is considered to be a “holy number” I believe. For example, the Trinity is three, Jesus was crucified in the third hour, there were three hours of darkness, He lay in the tomb for three days.

      1. I gave c your explanation. Her response:

        “Okay, but he probably really fell more than that and I STILL think one falling station is enough.”

      2. “I STILL think one falling station is enough.”

        Yes, but would she have been as inquisitive and curious if there was only one falling station?

        It seems to me that the multiple repetition of Jesus falling has done (at least one of) its intended purpose(s) — it got her to think about it more.

    2. Cynthia, A possible root in the OT??
      So then, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together. Let the sword strike twice, even three times. It is a sword for slaughter— a sword for great slaughter, closing in on them from every side. So that hearts may melt and the fallen be many, I have stationed the sword for slaughter at all their gates. Oh! It is made to flash like lightning, it is grasped for slaughter. O sword, slash to the right, then to the left, wherever your blade is turned. I too will strike my hands together, and my wrath will subside. I the LORD have spoken.” Ezekiel 21:14-17

      1. Msgr Pope I fear that c will be quite enamored of this reading – and want a sword. I can see her now, slashing to the right and to the left…

  2. I remember being confused about this at one time. Jesus said the crucified thief would be with him in paradise that very day… I was flummoxed for a bit,…. I wasn’t applying the knowledge that Jesus was one person of the Holy Trinity, and that the other persons were in heaven at the same time.

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