An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Since Graham asked, and it being my most beloved (and often quoted here) Orthodox services I am more than happy to provide a few excerpts from Holy Saturday services. The ancient story around which much of the service (and indeed our traditional understanding of what took place after the cross) may be found HERE.
When Thou didst descend to death 0 Life Immortal, Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead! And when from the depths Thou didst raise the dead, all the powers of heaven cried out: O Giver of Life! Christ our God! Glory to Thee!
The angel standing by the grave cried out to the women: Myrrh is proper for the dead, but Christ has shown himself a stranger to corruption.
Today Hades lets out a groan: "Would that I had not received the son of Mary: for when He came upon me He dissolved my power; He shattered the gates of bronze; the souls I had held captive, as God He raised up." Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection.
Today Hades lets out a groan: "My sovereignty is destroyed. I received Him as a mortal, one among the dead; but this One I am powerless to contain; instead with Him I lose all I had governed. I had held the dead for ages, but behold, He resurrects all." Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection.
Today Hades lets out a groan: "My might is swallowed up: the shepherd was crucified but raised up Adam. All I ruled over I have lost; all I was able in my power to consume, I have disgorged. The crucified One has emptied the graves. The sway of death is no more." Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection.
Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth...
The Harrowing of Hell seems clearly connected to this day on which we Orthodox fast and remember the Elevation of the Cross. That cross, which we call "precious and life-giving," is the instrument of our salvation. It is the pathway by which Christ reaches us in the dark prison of death and forever smashes the doors and locks rendering it unable to hold us.
The Cross is the guardian of the whole earth! The Cross is the beauty of the Church! The Cross is the strength of kings! The Cross is the support of the faithful! The Cross is the glory of the angels and the wounder of demons! ... We venerate Thy Cross, O Master, and we glorify Thy holy Resurrection!
The Harrowing of Hell seems clearly connected to this day on which we Orthodox fast and remember the Elevation of the Cross.Uh... "...on which we Orthodox..." Uhhh... Actually (and this is primarily for the benefit of those who don't know this...), the vast majority of the Orthodox Christians in the world will celebrate this event on what the world thinks is September 27th... But, from us old-calendar types -- I hope your keeping of the Elevation of the Cross was a blessing to you!