Based on “An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday”,
a Homily by St. Melito of Sardis from the Second Century
This Holy Saturday, I ask
In wonder: what is happening?
Suspended thick above the earth,
Hangs silence, still but deafening.
The King of Kings is now asleep;
Again, on Sabbath, rest He takes.
He died in flesh and raised the dead;
The longing underworld now quakes.
The Victor in the darkness there
Seeks our first parents: Adam, Eve.
True freedom from their pain and death
He dearly wants them to receive.
Triumphantly He holds the cross,
Scared Adam shouts, He enters bright.
The Son and Savior grasps his hand:
“Awake, arise, receive my light.
I am your God, who for your sake
Became your son, and I command
You both and all those here in chains:
Come forth, have light, arise and stand.
I made you in My Image; rise!
I have not made you for the grave.
Together we are one, so rise!
Go hence we must; I come to save.
For I, the Master, took your form,
That of a slave, from human birth.
I dwelt among your children frail,
I now come here below the earth.
You left a garden; in return
I, from above the heavens, came,
And in a garden was betrayed,
Was crucified in your own name.
Look at the spittle on My face,
Which I received because of you,
In order that My breath divine
Breathed into you I may renew.
See these, the blows which mar My cheeks,
Which I accepted to restore
Your form from that disfigured state
To My Own Image evermore.
Now, see the scourging of My back,
Which I accepted to disperse
The load of sin which had been laid
Upon your back, the Fall’s great curse.
O Adam, see, my hands were nailed
Upon the tree, a loving deed
For you, who had stretched out your hands
Up to the tree in evil greed.
I fell asleep upon the cross
And, Adam, sword has pierced my side
For you, who slept in Paradise
And from your side came forth your bride.
My side has healed your own side’s pain;
My sleep has raised you from your sleep;
My sword has checked the sword which turned
Against you for your sin so deep.
But rise, O Adam, let us go!
From Eden Satan led your feet,
But now I reinstate you, not
In Eden, but on Heaven’s seat!
I barred from you the tree of life,
Which was a figure; this is true.
Now Adam, I, who am the Life,
Indeed unite myself to you.
The cherubim had guarded you
By my command just like a slave.
But now, I ask these angels here
To honor you as I who save.
The angels’ throne has been prepared,
The bearers ready, waiting there,
The bridal chamber neatly set,
The banquet food is made with care;
The everlasting homes and rooms
And treasures of good things await;
The kingdom has been long prepared
Before all ages—your estate.”
The original homily can be found here.
Kevin Kearns ’20 is a senior in Eliot House studying Philosophy.
Image: Charles Harold Davis, “Clouds After Storm” (1900)