Hopko on Christ’s Descent into Hades

Since my brief review of Lyra Pitstick’s new book has prompted a mini-discussion of the “Eastern view” of Holy Saturday and Christ’s descent, let me direct you, dear readers, to a 2008 podcast by the late Fr. Thomas Hopko housed over at Ancient Faith Radio. The podcast is also available on YouTube here. Fr. Hopko makes some needful distinctions concerning the nature of Christ’s descent and who he came to liberate from the underworld. I agree wholeheartedly with Fr. Hopko that speaking of “Christ’s descent into hell” as opposed to Hades creates some unnecessary confusion and that it’s important to recall that according to the received teaching of the Eastern Church, those who rejected God’s Law before the Incarnation were not necessarily saved. However, that point really doesn’t touch on the central question Pitstick asks in her two works on Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Holy Saturday theology, namely whether or not it can find support in the teaching of the Universal Church. As Hopko makes clear, Christ did not experience the torments of hell and on this point Balthasar’s theology can find no support from the Christian East.