Saturday, March 03, 2007

More on Jesus' Descent Into "Hell"

I received the following question in response to my defense of Jesus' descent into "Hell" (see parts one and two):
I just came across your website today (through Joan's link in her newsletter) and saw the part about Jesus' descent into hell. It's something I've always wondered about when saying the Apostle's Creed. Why did Jesus who was not a sinner go to hell first and not ascend directly to heaven? From your thread I gather it was to save the souls of those who died in the flood? But if they were worthy of salvation surely they would have been in purgatory? I'm still confused!
You're right in gathering from my posts that the reason Jesus descended into Hell was to free the righteous souls who died before His Resurrection. He certainly was not sent there as punishment for sin!

The reason these righteous souls did not go to Purgatory was because Purgatory did not yet exist. Until Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, there was only Hades, and all souls went there when they died. Of course, their experience of Hades was not the same. The righteous experienced relative security in "the bosom of Abraham" while the unrighteous experienced torments (see the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Lk 16:19-31).

However, after His Ascension, Jesus instituted Purgatory so that the souls who died in communion with Him could be purified of any remaining imperfections and enter into heavenly glory. For more on Jesus' descent into Hell, go here. For more on Purgatory, go here.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Unfortunately in our diocese (the diocese of Charlotte) the lay ministry course is teaching that this never happened.

Thanks for defending the faith. Its a long uphill battle and we have more enemies inside our walls than outside.

Rob said...

Then Cardinal Ratzinger has some interesting things to say on this topic in "Introduction to Christianity", pp. 293-301.

phatcatholic said...

You're right Rob, the Cardinal's insights there are amazing. I just found out today that Dr. Regis Martin wrote his doctoral dissertation on the very passage you are citing. It was just recently--as in last week--published by Ignatius Press. It is entitled, "The Suffering of Love: Christ's Descent Into the Hell of Human Hopelessness." It promises to be an amazing read.

Check it out:

Pax Christi,

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