The Descent into Hell

At daybreak, the noble women began

To prepare for their journey; the council of men knew

That Christ’s body had been concealed in that grave.

Those weary women desired to bemoan with weeping,

5          To deplore with lamentation, alone for a while,

The death of Christ. Their sleep was lost,

That was a hard journey hence; distraught were the men who

Would [later] find happiness at that quiet burial hill.

That Mary came mourning at dawn,

10        The nobleman’s daughter summoned the other to her.

The sorrowful two sought God’s victorious child

Alone in that grave, where they before knew 

That the men of Judea had hidden Him;

They believed that He would remain in that burial place,

15        Alone on that Easter-night. Yet, the women knew another thing

When they went on their way!

For, there came at daybreak a throng of angels,

The rapture of the host encompassed the Savior’s city.

That grave was open, Christ’s body

20        Seized the breath of life, the earth quaked,

The prisoners of Hell laughed; the young man awoke,

Noble-minded from the soil, Christ arose,

Triumphant and wise.  The man John [the Baptist],

High-souled, laughing, spoke to the multitude of Hell’s inhabitants,

25        About his cousin’s…

“Our Savior had promised me,

That He would send me on this journey, 

That he sought me…six months, 

The prince of all people.  Now…shaken.

30        I fully, strongly, and truly believe

…Today Christ, God’s victorious child, will

…Visit.”

He, the prince of mankind, hastened then to go;

The helm of heaven, the most righteous of all rulers

35        would break through and degrade the walls of Hell,

And set about to carry off the stronghold’s multitude there.  

He cared not for that pit of helmeted soldiers there,

Nor would He lead armor-clad warriors to those city-gates.

But those locks fell,

40        The bars from those fortifications; the ruler rode in,

Prince of all people, and hastened forth,

The throng’s glorious giver. The exiles pressed forward,

Which of them would have the opportunity to behold that victorious child?

Adam and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

45        Many a spirited man, Moses and David,

Isaiah and Zacharias,

Many a patriarch, likewise also, an assembly of men,

A throng of prophets, a multitude of women,   

Many a maid, a countless number of people.

50        John then saw the victorious child of God,

With majesty, come to Hell.

He, of sorrowful spirit, then recognized the journey of God’s own self.

He saw the gates of Hell, which were long before locked

And concealed with darkness, brightly shine;

55        The disciple was in rapture.

The chief of the stronghold’s inhabitants then strong-spirited, boldly summoned

And spoke to his kinsmen before the multitude,

And then with words of welcome greeted [Him]:

“Thanks be to you, our prince,

60        That you would seek…us,

Now we abide in these bonds…         

While [Satan] binds many brotherless

Exiles…(he is widely cursed),

He [man] is not for that so narrowly under hate-lock… 

65        Nor is he so bitterly bound under oppressive bonds,

That he may not easily possess courage

When he trusts in his Lord’s grace 

That He will ransom him from those bonds.

Thus, we all trust in You alone, 

70        My dear ruler. I have suffered much 

Since You formerly journeyed to me,

When You granted me that sword and breastplate,

Helmet and war-like dress, (ever yet I hold that now), 

And You revealed to me, joy of the kingly hosts,

75        That You were my protector-ruler.

Lo! Gabriel, how skillful and sharp,

Mild and mindful and meek you are,

Wise in your intellect, and shrewd in your word, 

That you revealed that lad to us

80        When you presented Him in Bethlehem.

We endured for so long,

Weighed down with troubles, desirous of peace,

Pleasures and hopes, when we heard God’s word 

Spoken through His own mouth.

85        Lo! Mary, how high-souled a ruler

You bore us, when you, in Bethlehem,

Gave that child to us. We then, trembling

Beneath Hell’s gates, were severely obliged to  

Remain in bonds. The Devil delighted in his work;

90        The old-fiends were all in raptures about us

When they heard how we suffered…

…In mourning our people,

Until…God, lord of victory,

Boldest of all kings…You united with us.

95        …Now You delivered forth to us young warriors

The spirited man. Through a covetous spirit

We betrayed ourselves; therefore, the sins in our hearts we then

Led into the Devil’s hands,

Likewise, to our foes we must entreat refuge.

100      Lo! Jerusalem in Judea,  

How you dwelt still in that place!

Not all living earth-dwellers

Who sing your glory

Might travel around you.

105      Lo! Jordan in Judea,

How you dwelt still in that place!

By no means, may you flow for the earth-dwellers;

Nor may they partake of the joys of your waters.

Now I, deep in unrest, implore you, 

110      Our savior, (You are the lord Christ),

That You, creator of men, show us mercy.

You, Yourself, good lord of victory,

Ruler of people,

For the love of men, sought      

115      Your mother’s bosom,

By no means for your necessity, ruler of nations,

Because of those mercies that you often revealed

To mankind, when it was greatly in need. 

You have the power to embrace the settlements of all people,  

120      Likewise, mighty Lord, most honorable of all rulers,

You have the power to count the sand-grains of the sea.

Moreover, I implore [You], our Savior, most excellent of rulers,

By…childhood,

And by those wounds, [Lord] of multitudes,

125      Your resurrection, bliss of princes, 

And by Your…name,

Who all of those exiles of Hell praise and…

…that who about [You] stand,

That You who let sit…hand,

130      That You, Lord of throngs, through Your own power,

Would seek us on this journey of exile,

And for Jerusalem in Judea,

(That city there shall still even so await

135      Your return, beloved ruler),

And for Jordan in Judea,

(You and I, we two bathed in that river together).

You, Lord of throngs, in joyous mood,

Sprinkled all citizens with that water.”

140      Likewise, together with John in the Jordan,

You beautifully inspired all of this earth

With Your baptism. For this, gratitude be to God forever!

 

© 2014 Ashley Hawley