For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

The mystery of salvation in Christ

In the Apostle’s Creed, we profess that Christ “descended into Hell.” When Christ died, like all of humanity after the Fall, Hell is where he was destined to go, but sin and death got more than they bargained for by trying to condemn and contain him. Some artists depict Our Lord, upon his death, kicking down the doors to Hell and crushing hapless devils underneath. The mystery of salvation in Christ is that he did not just save those who lived with him or would live after his Redemption; he saved everyone, a mystery we remember by commemorating his descent into Hell on Holy Saturday.

“Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection.”

The state, situation or location of the just souls who died before Christ in need of a Savior is still widely debated by theologians, but the important thing is that his death liberated everyone who deserved it, no matter when they were born.

When the People of God, Israel, were constituted as a people at Mt. Sinai, the covenant was sealed between them and the Lord through the blood of a sacrifice. Our Heavenly Father from eternity wanted us to stand before him one day, believing in his Son, the definitive People of God, and the sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross sealed that covenant. We were entrusted to him by Our Father and no one can take us away from him if we cling to him (see John 17:6–19).

The direct and most fearful consequence of sin that continues to haunt humanity is death. Saint Paul observed that even when people were clueless about sin, the Law, and any violation thereof, death showed to all that there was something wrong (see Romans 5:12-17). Our Lord used something wrong to set something aright. That doesn’t mean he committed an act of injustice; rather, he subjected himself to an injustice and overthrew it for everyone who believes in him. What would have been justice for us—death for our sins—was injustice for him, but he took it upon himself for our sake.

Our Lord has broken the bonds of death and shown it does not have the last word. Let’s take Paul’s words to heart: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:4–5).

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