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FIRST READING
From the letter to the Hebrews 4:1-13

Let us strive to enter the Lord’s rest

While the promise of entrance into his rest still holds, we ought to be fearful of disobeying lest any one of you be judged to have lost his chance of entering. We have indeed heard the good news, as they did. But the word which they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive it in faith.

It is we who have believed who enter into that rest, just as God said:

“Then I swore in my anger,
‘They shall never enter into my rest.’”

Yet God’s work was finished when he created the world, for in reference to the seventh day Scripture somewhere says, “And God rested from all his work on the seventh day”; and again, in the place we have referred to, God says, “They shall never enter into my rest.”

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter, and those to whom it was first announced did not enter because of unbelief, God once more set a day, “today,” when long afterward he spoke through David the words we have quoted:

“Today if you should hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.”

Now if Joshua had led them into the place of rest, God would not have spoken afterward of another day. Therefore, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. And he who enters into God’s rest, rests from his own work as God did from his. Let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall, in imitation of the example of Israel’s unbelief.

Indeed, God’s word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates and divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the reflections and thoughts of the heart. Nothing is concealed from him; all lies bare and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

 

RESPONSORY
See Matthew 27:66, 60, 62

They buried the Lord and sealed the tomb
by rolling a large stone in front of it.
– They stationed soldiers there to guard it.

The chief priests asked Pilate for a guard.
– They stationed soldiers there to guard it.

 

SECOND READING
From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
(PG 43, 439, 451, 462-463)

The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps 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. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He 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, he who is both God and the son of 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.” He 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 for 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 am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; 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 man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified 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 I 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 worship you as God. 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.

 

RESPONSORY
Our shepherd, the source of the water of life, has died.
The sun was darkened when he passed away.
But now man’s captor is made captive.
– This is the day when our Savior broke through the gates of death.

He has destroyed the barricades of hell,
overthrown the sovereignty of the devil.
– This is the day when our Savior broke through the gates of death.

 

CONCLUDING PRAYER

Let us pray.

All-powerful and ever-living God,
your only Son went down among the dead
and rose again in glory.
In your goodness
raise up your faithful people,
buried with him in baptism,
to be one with him
in the everlasting life of heaven,
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.