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Where Did He Go?

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

This blog post has been occupying my mind for some time as it is one that goes into more depth about a poem that I have written and featured on my website. I wondered if when I read it again whether I would have changed anything. But actually, no. If anything, the question remains, 'Where did Christ go in those three days?'



The poem I am going to talk more about is called "Wounds" and can be found on the "Revelations" page of my website, under the main heading 'Another Time' on the Home Page; just scroll down, or click on this link: https://www.shelleyturnerpoetpix.com/copy-of-our-stories


I felt that this poem was an important one to add to the website early on as it was a good introduction into what preoccupies me, and it is at the absolute heart of what I often write about. I might write more about this specific topic in the future as it will always fascinate me, but for this particular poem I think it stands on its own merit.


The poem spans across quite a time frame of the aftermath of Christ's Easter Passion, and each event within the Passion is worthy of deep reflection on its own, and still remains the case today. But I remember thinking that I wanted to condense the whole event down, and see if I could get to the truth of it as I saw it, and what it meant to me personally. At the back of my mind was always the question, "Where did Christ go when He died?" and also "What happened in those three days before He was resurrected?"



The first we hear about of Christ's resurrection is in the Orthodox Liturgy for Holy Saturday, where we learn about Christ's descent into Hell, known as the 'Harrowing of Hell'. This event happens before the appearance to Mary Magdalene, where she thinks at first that He is the gardener, and then following this meeting there are other appearances to His Disciples, well known in the Easter Story.


A Trip Down To Hell And Back

Before meeting His Disciples Christ travels down to Hell and rips off the doors of Hell from their hinges, enters Hell and tramples on the Devil in a fabulous show of glory and leads out the faithful by their hands and brings them out of Hell.


For my poem I wanted to narrate it from Christ's point of view and reflect upon what He might have been feeling, especially as His spirit adjusted to its new state of 'being'. What were His feelings when He was gifted the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of Good Friday for instance?



His feelings are known here, as He says " Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me, nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." Christ knew the cup's full significance, and He also knew that He could not escape His destiny. An Angel appeared and helped to strengthen Him through this desperate night.


The Passion Begins

And so Christ begins His Passion on The Cross, and on Good Friday the world turns dark at Midday as He dies. This is the point from where my poem starts, where Christ begins His new journey and mission. I wanted to condense this seemingly impossible task into a four-page poem with my images helping to illustrate the narrative, and it was one of those that did take me quite a while to get it to the point where I was satisfied with it, over a period of five months.


"Take this cup from me I beg you...."

Christ's journey into the afterlife is a topic that fascinates me because the afterlife is ever-present in all of the work that I do, and this period of adjustment from being mortal to another form of sentient being must be obviously disorientating. Many people have felt the presence of their loved ones after they have died. And it is often the case that this continues for a few months afterwards, gradually lessening. For some it can be a repeated experience, or only occasionally, but equally emotional and affecting when it occurs. It is known to happen across many cultures and faiths, each with their own personal stories to tell. Perhaps the spirit at this stage is not only orientating itself, but also trying to comfort those it has left behind, or communicate some other message, one that gives rise to stories of another kind, where we are in the territory of hauntings and restless spirits.


But for Christ's journey at this point, His adjustment is announced with power, as He seeks to break Satan's rule over the faithful. This event forms part of the Paschal Mystery of the Easter Story in the Orthodox Liturgy, otherwise known as the Katabasis, from the Ancient Greek. This is a descent into the Underworld to rescue the souls of the deceased. Christ's Harrowing of Hell is described in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus.



In this gap of time before Christ appears before His Disciples Christ faces His nemesis, the Devil, and I wondered how he felt about that. Many paintings and icons from the Eastern Orthodox tradition show Him victorious at this point as he tramples over the Devil and brings out the righteous from the Old Testament, including the original Adam and Eve, and from the New Testament, John the Baptist, with many others.


"Even for you I can feel a kind of pity..."

I thought that at this moment as Christ had overcome death itself and was able to enter the Underworld to trample over His enemy representing the force of evil, because of His own divinity, Christ was able to even feel pity for the Devil, just as he felt sorrow for Judas who betrayed Him with a kiss. Christ knew that Judas was a pawn in the game, that the outcome was going to be inevitable. Christ knew that people and elements can be overtaken by the force of evil, and this changes that person or entity into a destructive force.



There is hope for us all in Christ's descent into the Underworld, His defeat of the Devil and His victory in rescuing the faithful from Hell. It shows us that even in death we can defeat our fears and return to a fulfilling role and give our soul a chance to be at peace.


The theme of the Descent into The Underworld or Limbo is depicted in many Renaissance paintings, but some of my favourite images come from the Orthodox Iconography of the Easter Icons illustrating the Harrowing of Hell. Icons have an immediacy that speaks directly to you, inviting you to enter into their world of the divine, illuminated by brilliant gold.


Studying icons and the imagery that seems to call to your deepest longings is a wonderful meditative way to not only understand Christian theology, but it is also a way to enter into a sacred realm and perhaps find the answers you seek.



My own poem reflects on Christ's feelings towards the Devil, as I consider what might have been going through His mind as He came face to face with the Devil again. After this I turn to Christ's thoughts on meeting His friends and Disciples once more, and explore the realisation that Christ probably knew that his loved ones may not immediately recognise Him, as He had become 'more than Himself'. I hint at a sadness at this, as He is well aware that the separation from the world of the living and the resurrected state must be made clear, even to those that he loves.


Which is why when Mary Magdalene realises that in fact He is not the gardener she thought He was when she first comes across Him near His tomb on Easter Sunday, that He is indeed her risen Christ after he says her name, He has to say to her, when she reaches for Him, "Noli me tangere", that famous quote, "Touch me not".


"But they will know me all the same..."

Further sightings follow as Christ makes Himself known to His Disciples by the familiar actions of speaking their names or breaking the bread and sharing the wine, or showing them His healed wounds from the crucifixion.


But He maintains a certain distance, as He knows He has to ascend further. This period of time where it is possible to feel or sense our loved ones quite closely after death seems to follow a certain pattern. It is easier at this time, can even be stronger visually or we are aware of hearing their voices as we remembered them. Scent may feature in the recognition, particularly if that association was very strong in the relationship when that person was alive.


This is not to say that apparitions or sensing their presence does not happen at a later date, but it might not be as frequent. As time moves on these episodes might become more fleeting, almost as if it has become more difficult to re-connect, but whether this is because of difficulties the spirit has or the lack of skills from our abilities to understand them with some consistency is open to question. There is no doubt that some people have a sensitivity in this area, and can act as a 'sensitive' or a medium, or a go-between.



The final part of my poem offers a hope that all of our wounds will become healed, and not just Christ's. The poem also shares a way where we can find Him when we need Him through the sharing of His cup, whether that is through the Eucharist, where the actions of the Last Supper are shared, or even metaphorically ourselves, where we can visualise the cup, or as in my case, photograph it, and enter into a meditative state to reach Him while I am in a location, or afterwards as I am working on a poem with an image to produce a finished piece of work.


"All hurts melt away..."

You might ask if Christ descended down into the abyss and defeated evil and overcame death why is this still rampant across our world. Why do we need the cup at all. This is a matter of your own personal belief and I can only share mine as I see it, feel it and have come to believe over many years. My own personal belief is that the existence and the eternity of life and the universe never stops, ever, that there is a constant balancing act required, in this world and the next, or those running along side of us. That it constantly renews itself in ways we cannot imagine.


The forces of 'good and evil' will always be with us in some form, and always at war with each other; it is in the fabric of the universe and life itself. Perhaps it is even needed, to keep the universe in constant movement. As soon as a life form becomes as advanced as a human being we see these divides start to appear in a more overt form, truly the paradox of being human.



In Christ's journey through His life on earth and His death, and subsequent afterlife and ascension, we can find hope in our own lives and the journey of our soul. Death is a fact of life, all that remains is how we choose to greet it. If we wish, if we choose, Christ will stand with you. It has to be a matter of your choice because Christ does not want to take away your free will. The realisation that He will always be with you means that no matter how dark and desperate things may seem, if the heart, mind and soul can take a leap of faith, the spirit will find rebirth, just as Christ's did.


"The cup will return to you..."

In writing my poem from Christ's point of view, I wanted to emphasise his humanity at this stage in His life as it brings into sharp relief all the doubts we all go through in our lives. As we near the end of our days we might need reassurance at times, and some might find comfort with what the cup offers.


There is a small window of opportunity while the soul readjusts to its new state of being in the afterlife, and this is where miracles can occur, if we seek to be open-minded and can find our way to understanding.



 


Please find below a list of books used for reference for this blog post which are from my own library.

All images in this blog post are photographed by Shelley Turner and are either from my own book library or taken in Glynde Church, East Sussex, UK.


Thank you for reading.



The above two books are from 'The Guide To Imagery' series, which were published by The J. Paul Getty Museum. This series sought to educate by using images of art as a visual vocabulary, with descriptions and explanations of numerous works of art under selected themes. I have found them to be an incredibly useful guide when researching for a particular topic.


Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church

English translation © 2006 J. Paul Getty Trust

Published by the J. Paul Getty Museum

ISBN 978 0 89236 845 7 [pbk.]


Death and Resurrection in Art

English translation © 2009 J. Paul Getty Trust

Published by the J. Paul Getty Museum

ISBN 978 0 89236 947 8 [pbk.]



The Mystical Language of Icons is a beautiful book written by Solrunn Nes, and illustrated throughout with her own icons. Because she is an icon painter in the traditional style, she is a modern artist continuing in the sacred language of historical iconography, with many commissions as a renowned Christian Icon painter. In this book she not only explains the traditional techniques of icon painting, she also explores the history and meaning of icons, using her own spiritually moving work. The book therefore acts as a devotional resource as well, helping us to enter into the sacred world of Christianity in the Orthodox Church.


In The History of Hell, by Alice K. Turner, we are taken on a journey into the many ways Hell has been depicted and written about in the past 4,000 years. Everything is here that you could imagine that inhabits Hell and some that perhaps you have not. It is a place that means different things to different people, but one that shows no sign of going away. Beautifully written and illustrated, this is a perfect guide to the many realms of Hell.


The Mystical Language of Icons

By Solrunn Nes

Published by the Canterbury Press Norwich 2005

ISBN 1 85311 657 2


The History Of Hell

By Alice K. Turner

Published by Robert Hale London 1995

ISBN 0 7090 5688 5

















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John Hewitt
John Hewitt
22 дек. 2022 г.

Well Shelley, this is a welcome return to the Blogosphere. For me your subject is very personal, having lost my dear father to death almost two weeks ago. It is times like these that test our understanding of the faith and St Paul's forthright conclusion, "O death where is thy sting? O grave thy victory?" C.S. Lewis was just as adamant that the death of Jesus on the cross marked the "death of death itself". Now this truly is a fact that changes the order of the universe dramatically. Last night I also watched a choral presentation of Handel's "Messiah" and this theme is presented with gusto, "The dead shall be raised, incorruptible!"


I'm not sure how many words I…


Лайк
Shell's Blog
Shell's Blog
23 дек. 2022 г.
Ответ пользователю

Dear John,

Thank you, so much, for your wonderful comment, which is not a comment, it is more a wonderful discussion on this topic, which is exactly what I wanted to encourage on here. We are all on a journey of discovery, if we let ourselves be open to discussion. I feel that your thoughts on my piece here, and my poem on which this blog is centred around, has filled in some important theory.

The Harrowing of Hell became an important subject for me, as the more I read about it the more things started to make sense to me, and your addition here has given me more to investigate and explore.

As you know, I am very much…

Лайк
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