I don’t generally get to recite morning prayer any more (there was a time when I said it every day, but that was before children). Every year though I make a point of reading this reading from morning prayer for Holy Saturday. There is something so perfect about it.
FROM AN ANCIENT HOMILY ON HOLY SATURDAY
Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the Lord 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. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
God has gone to search for our first parent, 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 the captives Adam and Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’
Christ took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:
‘Awake, o sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.
‘For your sake I, your God, became your seed; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of humankind, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed in a garden.
‘See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you
the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the
blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in
my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I
endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your
back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once
wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
‘I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who
slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side
has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your
sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the
sword that was turned against you.
‘Rise. Let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the
earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but
will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was
only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one
with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are
guarded, but now I make them honour you as sons of the Most
High. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers
swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is
ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure
houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has
been prepared for you from all eternity.’