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God doesn’t just die, he goes to hell: a far more radical proposition. He descends to the underworld to liberate the anawim, the dispossessed and the forgotten. “The anawim will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever” (Psalm 9:18).

Good Friday, shorn of the Triduum, is nothing but death. That’s the point. But however much we fix our gaze on the theologia crucis, the story goes on. Christ doesn’t just die, he descends and harrows hell. Good Friday is radicalized by the passage of liturgical time, culminating in the Great Vigil of Easter.

Easter without the horror of Good Friday; Good Friday without the hope of Easter. Both are products of anemic protestant theology and in both cases the poor are forgotten. A dead god presents no hope for the poor; a god who is characterized by triumph alone presents no hope for the poor. But a god who died to join and liberate the poor in hell is a god of solidarity.

Good Friday without Holy Saturday is the veneration of death. In a culture that denies death, we can understand the allure of Good Friday; in a culture that denies mysterion, we can understand the rejection of Holy Saturday. It’s too pagan, too mystical. Better to have death and resurrection alone, and nothing in between.

Writing about Christ’s descent into hell, Terry Eagleton says that God,

dies in an act of solidarity with what the Bible calls the anawim, meaning the destitute and dispossessed. Crucifixion was reserved by the Roman for political offenses alone. The anawim, in Pauline phrase, are the shit of the earth – scum and refuse of society who constitute the cornerstone of the new form of human life known as the kingdom of God. Jesus himself is consistently presented as their representative. His death and descent into hell is a voyage into madness, terror, absurdity, and self-dispossession, since only a revolution that cuts that deep can answer to our dismal condition (Reason, Faith, and Revolution, 23).

Perhaps we in the West have forgotten Holy Saturday because it is a day of solidarity with the anawim and a day of revolutionary fervor. As the thinking goes, better to pass over this day in silence lest any seditions thoughts begin to take hold.

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