Awake, O sleeper: A meditation on Holy Saturday

One of the greatest Christian writers who ever lived is the unknown author of this ancient homily from the second century, a meditation on Holy Saturday. Happy Easter from the editors and staff of America.

Matt Malone, S.J.


What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: “My Lord be with you all.” And Christ in reply says to Adam: “And with your spirit.” And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

“I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

“For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

“Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

“See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

“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 healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

“But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”

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William Rydberg
2 years 9 months ago
So why did you take out devil and substitute underworld? Makes so much more sense from a Catholic's perspective to use devil. The Fall wasn't suggested to our first parents by an amorphous "underworld", rather by a person racked with envy...the devil or satan... Personal evil... Remember that you are a Catholic priest first... That existence of personal evil, the devil or satan is ordinary teaching of the Church. Just my opinion, in The Risen Lord Jesus,
Sandi Sinor
2 years 9 months ago
Fr. Malone did not substitute "underworld" for "devil". This presentation of this ancient homily is identical to that found on the Vatican's website. The word "devil" does not appear. The correct word is "underworld". It is just my opinion, but I think that you should apologize for your inferences that Fr. Malone erred, and that he is ignorant of Catholic teaching.
William Rydberg
2 years 9 months ago
Sandi-Although I have said before that I would not reply to your comments because in my opinion, you tend to mistake honest intellectual differences for personal attacks should that opinion not square with your own in my opinion. We are all here to share, I have better things to do than squabble. But, I will make this one exception : For the record, I have the highest respect for the Editor in Chief...
William Rydberg
2 years 9 months ago
“Domini in infernum descensio Quid istud rei est? Hódie siléntium magnum in terra; siléntium magnum, et solitúdo deínceps; siléntium magnum, quóniam Rex dormit; terra tímuit et quiévit, quóniam Deus in carne obdormívit, et a sǽculo dormiéntes excitávit. Deus in carne mórtuus est, et inférnum concitávit.   Profécto primum paréntem tamquam pérditam ovem quæsítum vadit. Omníno in ténebris et in umbra mortis sedéntes invísere vult; omníno captívum Adam, unáque captívam Evam, ex dolóribus solútum vadit Deus illiúsque Fílius.   Ingréssus est Dóminus ad eos, victrícia arma crucis tenens. Quem ubi vidit Adam primus parens, præ stupóre pectus vérberans, exclamávit ad omnes, dixítque: “Dóminus meus cum ómnibus”. Et respóndens Christus dicit Adámo: “Et cum spíritu tuo”. Et apprehénsa manu éxcitat, dicens: “Expergíscere, qui dormis, et surge a mórtuis et illucéscet tibi Christus.   Ego Deus tuus, qui propter te factus sum fílius tuus; qui propter te, et propter hos, qui a te oriúndi sunt, nunc dico, et per potestátem ímpero iis qui in vínculis erant: Exíte; et qui in ténebris: Illuminámini; et sopítis: Resúrgite.   Tibi præcípio: Expergíscere, qui dormis: étenim non ídeo te feci, ut in inférno contineáre vinctus. Surge a mórtuis; ego sum vita mortuórum. Surge, opus mánuum meárum; surge, effígies mea, quæ[…]” Excerpt From: Universalis. “2016 (ab Adventu ad Pentecosten) - Liturgia Horarum.” iBooks.


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