Review on Christ’s Descent into Hell: Theology of Holy Saturday

Jesus descends to hell Holy Saturday

In this book, Lyra Pitstick tackles the doctrine of Holy Saturday in Christ’s descent into hell.  Pitstick, seeks to answer the question concerning the approval of Balthasar’s general theological contributions, by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Balthasar on Holy Saturday

Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Chapter one contains Balthasar’s treatment on the significance of Holy Saturday, and his theology of this creedal event. Pitstick highlights four main points that underpin the priest’s theology: Christ’s descent completes redemption; Christ’s suffering increases in his descent; Christ became sin and literally underwent the Father’s wrath; and sin is expiating within the Trinity. To quote Balthasar, “Holy Saturday is…a kind of suspension, as it were, of the Incarnation…” (p. 4). Pitstick will focus on this point that Christ suffered after the descent as a major difference between John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s theology, using this approach throughout the rest of the book.

Ratzinger on Holy Saturday

Joseph Ratzinger

The next chapter relates to Joseph Ratzinger’s theology of Holy Saturday prior to his papal election in 2005. Pitstick shows that the German theologian moves away from the extremity of Balthasar’s theology. Using evidence from Introduction to Christianity (1968), Eschatology (1977), “Meditations on Holy Week,” Introduction (1997), The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000), Mediations on Holy Week (1967) and Behold the Pierced One (1981), Ratzinger’s Holy Saturday theology distances itself from his mentor, Balthasar. According to Pitstick, the major differences between the two theologians is that Ratzinger focuses on God’s apparent, but not real, abandonment of Christ during his descent, while maintaining that there is no suspension in the Incarnation.

Continuing with the theology of Ratzinger, chapter 3 examines his view of the descent, after Ratzinger’s papal election. Here, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas graduate makes use of homilies, encyclicals, and books Benedict XVI wrote to survey his theological development on Holy Saturday. Like his view prior to becoming the Vicar of Christ, Benedict XVI continues to diverge from Balthasar by stressing the apparent abandonment of God in the descent.

How Ratzinger Differs from Bathasar

Another difference Pitstick found is “Ratzinger never asserts as Balthasar does, that the redemption was incomplete on the Cross, that Christ’s suffering intensified after his Death into abandonment in His filial relationship to the Father, that He was literally made sin in His descent, and that the whole Trinity experienced that event” (p. 53). Many times throughout the pages on Ratzinger, Pitstck points out that he utilizes metaphorical language to refer to the descent, and is not quite as clear as he could be with his descent theology (p. 41).

Pope John Paul II on Holy Saturday

John Paul II

Chapter four charts out John Paul II’s Holy Saturday theology. Similar to Benedict XVI, the Polish pope diverges from Balthasarian thought. Where John Paul II differs from Ratzinger is that the former is more direct. According to Pitstick: “John Paul II’s clarity makes his beliefs about Christ’s descent easy to see” (p. 59).

Three specific aspects of John Paul II’s descent theology are highlighted:

  • The meaning of “descended into hell” relates to Christ experiencing a separation of body and soul
  • Christ’s descent begins his glorification
  • Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a non-metaphorical salvation of the just men and women.

Safest Theological Interpretation on Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

Referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church heavily in this chapter, Pitstick maintains that John Paul II’s descent theology remains the closest to the official church teaching. His belief that Christ experienced a separation of body and soul after death is in line with the Catechism number 632. Pistick states, “The RC [Roman Catechism and John Paul II] is also explicit that Jesus did not suffer in His descent” (p. 69). This is in stark contrast to Balthasar’s view that Christ suffered during the descent.

Between the analysis of chapters six and seven is a brief tangential section on Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in regards to a parenthetical mention of Balthasar in the Introduction to the The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pitstick provides the content of what Schönborn said about Balthasar, the cardinal’s Holy Saturday theology, and the possible impacts that it has for Balthasar’s theology moving forward.

To be honest, this chapter was a “red herring”. It didn’t add much to the rest of the book. In her comparison of the three theologies of Holy Saturday, Pitstick focuses again on the differences. She provides a clear standard of measurement as she details definitions about the Church’s varying degrees of teaching authority.

Finding Theological Consistency 

In chapter seven, Pitstick handles the popes’ praise of Balthasar, and provides ways to reconcile such accolades with the conflicting thought on the descent of Christ. She concludes her analyses with the following position: “There is certainly praise of the theologian, but there is no approbation of specific theses, least of all his theology of Holy Saturday, with which Ratzinger explicitly said he could not concur, and with which John Paul II took an incompatible position in his papal audiences, and promulgation of the CCC” (p. 106).

Summary

Christ's Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

Pitstick presents a clear and concise summary of the entire book. She reiterates how the three theologians differed on the doctrine of the descent. John Paul II ‘s theology aligned closest to traditional Catholic doctrine, as outlined in the catechism; Balthasar’s view of the theology was the most controversial, and Ratzinger’s theology landed in the middle.

Despite the unnecessary chapter on Schönborn, this treatment on the theology of Christ’s Descent into Hell was an enjoyable and insightful read. Pitstick did a great job of focusing on each theologian individually. She contrasted the differences in their theology well too. Priests and deacons will acquire a new depth and understanding of the Mystery of Holy Saturday. This book will be invaluable to any homiletic and theological toolbox. 

Click on this link to purchase Christ’s Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

 

Thank you for sharing!

5 Things That Make Saint Pope John Paul II, Well—Great!

Catholics enjoy the opportunity to look to holy men and women as role models and guides in fulfilling our true purpose in life. The more I read and learn about the saints, the more profoundly I experience fellowship. Saints lived through suffering experiences with patience and reliance on God’s help.

Perhaps no other 20th century figure, and this includes a legendary list, provided a better example of following the golden rule and forgiving other as St. Pope John Paul II. Being my personal hero, I was overwhelmed with joy upon his canonization a mere five years after his death! While countless reasons exist for why I love and admire John Paul II, here are five facts that make the great Polish pope, well, great.

JPII MORE THAN GOOD GREAT

A lifetime of tragedies

Born in 1920 Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II, grew up during one of the most tumultuous eras in Polish history—Nazi occupation and later during the reign of Communism. Before he turned 22, Karol lost all of his immediate family members (his mother passed away during childbirth, his sister died before Karol was born, and his brother and father stated reason/manner). As if losing a family was not enough suffering to last a few lifetimes for anyone, in the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul was shot in a failed assassination.

The leader of the Catholic Church united himself so much to the suffering of Christ on the Cross. According to Jason Evert author of Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, “When someone mentioned the impending suffering that would be required by one of his surgeries, [the pope] replied, ‘The Church needs suffering.’”

Marian devotion

John Paul II and Mary

The Polish pope’s famous motto was Totus Tuus. This Latin phrase translates as “Totally Yours”, and was a reference to Mary’s total obedience to the Father’s will.

Among the defining events of the sainted pontiff’s life, the assassination attempt on May 13th, 1981 certainly had to be a monumental turning point. Already possessing a strong piety to the Blessed Virgin, this only increased after the bullet missed hitting vital organs by mere millimeters. He quipped, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path.” Totally trusting in the mediation of Mary in his life, John Paul II provides a good example for other Catholics to rely on the Mother of God to be a good protector and guide towards Christ.

Jason Evert in his biography talks of the pope’s admiration to Mary in this way, “In True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis de Montfort wrote, ‘the most faithful servants of the Blessed Virgin, being her greatest favorites, receive from her the best graces and favors from heaven, which are crosses.’ If suffering is a sign of predilection, then John Paul II must have been one of our Lady’s favorites!” Of the importance of the rosary John Paul II declared, “[The rosary is] our daily meeting which neither I nor the Blessed Virgin Mary neglect.”

Recently, my family started praying a decade of the Rosary each night before putting the kids to bed. My outlook on life and graces for patience have never been higher. I am thankful for John Paul the Great’s great witness to Marian devotion!

A people’s pope

John Paul II and World Youth Day

Thousands of young people cheer Pope John Paul II during the 1992 World Youth Day in Czestochowa, Poland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Paul II instituted World Youth Day, a worldwide gathering of Catholic youth every four years. He saw the importance of youth, especially teens as being the future of the Church. The excitement that revolves around this event continues even in the years after his death. The Polish pope traveled extensively across the globe administering to all God’s people and showing the love of Christ. His long tenure afforded the opportunities for a generation to grow up under his papacy and enjoy stability of leadership for the Catholic Church.

Lover of confession

Pope John Paul II quote on confession

Although John Paul II lived a remarkable life and endured his sufferings of Parkinson’s disease to the end, the most impressive feat of his papacy (and priesthood) was his daily reception of the Sacrament of Confession. He declared,

“It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation. Those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress, will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives.”

I feel out of whack spiritually when I fail to go to the proverbial “Medicine Box” for over a month. His near mastery of virtue—through the aid offered by the Holy Spirit in the confessional—is evident by his encounter with all he met and his quick canonization less than half a decade after his death.

Heroic herald of truth

Along with John Paul II’s ability to forgive others, such as the man who attempted to murder him, the Polish pope safeguarded and articulated the Catholic Church’s teaching boldly and clearly. Intrepidly standing up to the evils of Communism, the sainted pope never watered down truth for the sake of diplomacy.

St. John Paul II stated, “Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives!” Truly God gifted the world with the holiness of Karol Wojtyla. St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote,  “You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II will not be an easy feat, but it is a surefire and joyful path toward closer union with God.

Thank you Lord for the life of this wonderful saint, John Paul II!

Related Links

St. John Paul II & the Eucharist

St. Pope John Paul II

Here’s why John Paul II said “Do not be afraid”

Analysis of JPII’s The Splendor of Truth

On Polish Horseshoes, Karol Wojtyla, Accordions, and Other Possibly Polish Things

Thank you for sharing!

A Letter of Support and Hopefulness to Pope Francis

Write a letter

Dear Pope Francis,

God bless you and your priesthood, dear Holy Father. For it is in this mysterious gift the papacy rests in your hands, stirs in your heart, and witnesses with your life.

Providence has brought you to us. I am always grateful for Providence. I am a spiritual daughter of St. Mother Theodore Guerin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence in Terre Haute, Ind. In the 1980s, I was taught by her capable nuns whose one thread of thought was always to focus on God’s Providence.

God’s Plan Revealed Over Time

In God’s Providence, he put a man at the head of his Holy Catholic Church, starting with St. Peter who he asked three very poignant and straightforward questions. They are questions that each pope has answered through every century and ones you must ask yourself every day.

Christ asked Peter if he loved him three times (John 21:15-17) Answering ‘Yes’ each time, Jesus then commanded Peter to “Feed my Sheep,” instituting the role of the pope as the Good Shepherd. How vivid an image that does not change through the centuries of Christ’s Church but grows stronger.

How many times Our Lord spoke of the Good Shepherd protecting his flock, laying down His life for them, and keeping the wolves at bay. What a beautiful role you have been given by God himself.

A Rock to Hold on During the Storm

The times are weary and evil, like many other times the Church has weathered, and yet it finds you at the head of the church during an unprecedented time in history. We are a society entrenched in the greatest technology and the greatest sins that cry to heaven. Abortion rates skyrocket, infanticide in the womb, sodomy without shame, lack of shame in all areas of sexual life, and the pillaging of the poor despite these great technological advances infect our culture.

rock amongst the storm

There is no cure for cancer and many Christians live like unbelievers forgetting the great grace of the Eucharistic Lord.

The papacy gives hope to world. Other sounds reverberate around the world. Words of Our Holy Father that are questioned, scrutinized, taken out of context, and at times cause alarm. That is for you and your cardinals to decide how to clarify while upholding the dogma of the Catholic Church that has sustained us for more than 2,000 years.

Support Our Holy Father

My job as a faithful lay Catholic is to pray for unity and to meet this culture as the great St. John Paul II told us to back in 1978, “Be Not Afraid.” The pope has many titles but the most endearing is Servant of the Servants of God. The Pope washes our feet, uplifts our hearts, and can never cease to lead us to truth, beauty, and goodness (Philippians 4:8.)

Keep Calm and Love Pope Francis

All this noise and distraction about your papacy—you were elected on my birthday— is the noisy clang of the chain the devil is attached to. He  is straining hard to be unleashed.

Did not the reverent Cardinal Sarah say, “”The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church.” What a holy cardinal you have supporting you in God’s Providence!

In 1978, when St. John Paul II took office there wasn’t the Internet, cellphones, and social media. Communism was alive when John Paul II was elected. A brick wall in Germany reminded us of the stark reality. Pope John Paul II lived through Nazism and a communist rule so what better Lion of Judah to come out roaring on the balcony of St. Peter’s proclaiming “Be Not Afraid.”

That proclamation is relevant today for the papacy and for the people of the Catholic Church. Today, we face new fears, new evils, and new trials but we say “Be Not Afraid.”

Different, Yet the Same

Your entry onto the balcony of St. Peter’s was quite different for quite a different papacy formed in God’s Providence. You came out more as a startled dove, surprised at the support and deep love showered on you from the people below your papal balcony. That love of the people has sustained the papacy through generations.

Good Shepherd

Accept that love, dearest Holy Father, for we love you. The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow your voice.

We seek your answer just as Christ sought Peter’s answer. For we are do what Christ did.

We ask you: Do you love us, Holy Father? Do you want to feed us? The faithful will keep asking you this. They will ask every pope that comes after you these same questions posed first by Christ.

Christ’s Promise

You asked us to pray for you that first night and we should honor that request every day. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church that Christ founded. Christ’s promises are true even among the greatest sins. If the world as we know it does change, then the prayer we pray at every Mass, “Thy Kingdom Come,” has been fulfilled in great joy and Providence.

Matthew 16:18

Hell has not triumphed in that instance and never will. Christ has triumphed. God’s laws are always fulfilled even when the mystery of it leaves us in awe.

Dear Holy Father, who follows a long line of popes both good and bad, I say to you as a faithful Catholic: “You are in my prayers” and “Be Not Afraid.” I say to my fellow Catholics hurt by the Church: “Be Not Afraid.” St. John Paul II set the example by teaching us to face the millennium we now live in with hope.

As St. Mother Theodore Guerin said to her nuns and her students that came after her down through the generations, “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well

This is my prayer for you and the entire Church. Heaven’s best to you dear Holy Father.

In Providence,

Your humble daughter,

Jennifer


About the author

Jennifer Lindberg is a wife and mother to six children. She is an award-winning journalist with first-place awards from the Associated Press. Jennifer left secular journalism after seeing John Paul II in Split, Croatia. This prompted her to begin a career in the Catholic press and writing for non-profits. She writes at www.thinkingfromhope and has an Instagram account by the same name. Follow her there, as she talks about hope, Catholicism, lifestyle, and the beauty of faith.


Notes:

1.“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.” The quote comes from a letter written by Mother Theodore, dated March 27, 1854, to Cecile (Le Fer De La Motte) Choisnet, the younger sister of Sisters Mary Joseph and St. Francis Xavier. It is hoped that the encouragement Mother Theodore offers her “beloved Cecile” will provide inspiration for all who visit her shrine.

“You will not be offended, and you will allow me to say, and repeat, that you ought not to give way to uneasiness about the future. Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well.” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

2. The official titles of the Pope are:

The official list of titles of the Pope, in the order in which they are given in the Annuario Pontificio, is: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.[1] https://religion.wikia.org/wiki/Pope/Titles

3. https://aleteia.org/2017/04/08/rare-footage-watch-pope-john-paul-iis-first-words-after-his-election/

4. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said the people who portray him as an opponent of Pope Francis are being used by the devil to help divide the church.

“The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church,” the cardinal said in an interview published Oct. 7 in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily.

 

Thank you for sharing!

Saints of the New Springtime: Hope for the Catholic Church in 2020 and Beyond

By: Laura Ricketts

  • ❗️The annihilation and remaking of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
  • ❗️The looming Amazonian Synod.
  • ❗️The defrocked Mr. McCarrick.
  • ❗️Archbishop Vigano’s explosive letters.
  • ❗️Continuing revelations and investigations in Dioceses across the country relating to the abuse scandals.
  • ❗️Unanswered Dubia.

Catholic Church Scandal

It is no secret that we live in interesting and even troubling times. Such scandals remind us of the papacies of old. Jealousies, subterfuge, and politics were par for the course. When priests and prelates had factions and the talk of schism was real and present. It can lead even the most faithful among us to ask, “What are we to do?”

The Timeless Answer

The answer has already been given to us.

“Be not afraid.” This phrase is mentioned more than 365 times!

Saint Pope John Paul II  also reminded us to never fear.  The Polish pope left both an example to follow and the seeds of hope. Almost 20 years after his passing, a New Springtime is upon the Church.

John Paul II

As long ago as 1990, in Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II was speaking of this New Springtime. For those who grew up in the “JPII Generation,” many of us thought and hoped that it would mean a dramatic and unmistakable revival. A huge event. But that is often not how God works.

The seeds of this New Springtime were planted by the Polish Pope himself, in the hearts and minds of the young people to whom he felt a special connection and responsibility. Those “young people” are now the mothers, fathers, religious, priests, young and brave bishops who are coming into their own within the Church. They are professors, teachers, and theologians. They are catechists and pastors. And they have the example of John Paul II to follow to navigate these interesting times.

Impact of the Family

When he was Fr. Karol, John Paul II met with what came to be known as the “Little Family” (Mala Rodzina) and grew into what was called “Srodowisko.” This gathering of lay people with Fr. Karol helped him form his thoughts about love, man, and marriage, family—later known as Theology of the Body. He remarked that this little family became like his family. This experience formed the foundation of his Christological humanism and later, his first encyclical, Redeptor Hominis—the Redeemer of Man.

Hope During the Storms

What a beautiful way to follow the late pope’s example and to continue to water the flowers of the New Springtime! Within our own families and in our own parishes and communities we can form our own “Srodowiskos.” We can learn with and encourage our own friends, children, families, priests, and neighbors.

JPII generation

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the former Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family removing the study of moral theology from its courses, we, the JPII Generation, can continue to learn and teach and study as John Paul II intended, just as he himself started. We have his Theology of the Body for a text book. We have the writings of Janet Smith, Edward Sri, Pope Benedict XVI, the von Hildebrands, and Mgr Livio Melina, and Fr José Noriega as we continue. We have the sacraments, the Liturgy, and Cardinals like Sarah and Arinze to encourage us as we strive to be Holy and to help each other on the way to Heaven.

With the Amazonian Synod threatening to shake the foundations we know to be unshakeable, we have the Deposit of the Faith that is unchangeable. We have recourse to the Blessed Mother, to whom John Paul II constantly turned and consecrated himself and the Church. We can repeat after him, “Totus Tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt!”

Trust God Wholeheartedly

Despite the whispers of schism, allegations, accusations, and denials flying, we can have confidence that even in the most difficult of circumstances God’s Will shall prevail. Truth always shines forth in the end!

If Divine Providence can orchestrate the election of man who saw all of his family members die by his 20th birthday, survived WWII, withstood dangerous communist regimes, and survived an assassination attempt, imagine what He can do when we follow the example of John Paul II. Be one of the saints of the New Springtime!

New Springtime in Church


Laura is a wife, mother, and the wearer of many hats. She is a Client and Marketing Manager for And Then There Were None, and a Birth and Bereavement Doula for her ministry FiLumena Birth and Bereavement. She is certified in Psychological First Aid and Grief and Loss Counseling. When she isn’t wearing one of those hats she can be found reading about her hero and spiritual father, Pope St. John Paul II, kayaking, crocheting, or exploring with her husband, her kids and her cats in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia! Check out her content at filumenabirth.com and Prolifewomen.com.

Thank you for sharing!