I arise today...
... Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom ...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
Judgement of Doom...
Now that's not something we pray very often, if ever.
Let me offer two brief caveats before I dig into my own reflections on this line.
Some theology in this prayer comes from Patrick's Catholic tradition. As a protestant, though I grew up Catholic, I am not explicitly familiar with all the nuanced meanings of such theology.
These reflections are not well researched theological papers. I seek only to help guide our mediation as we pray this ancient and sacred prayer together.
That being said, let's get back to today's "strength": the strength of His descent for the judgement of doom. (I also confess that I can't even type that line without hearing C3PO's voice from Star Wars declaring, "We're doomed!")
Let us consider one of the most common scriptures used to affirm this idea of Christ's descent into Hades.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because ]they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
1 Peter 3:18-20
Whether this refers to a literal descent into hell may be debated among scholars for centuries to come as it has been for centuries past.
It does seem, however, that between Christ's burial and his resurrection, he didn't simply exist as a lifeless corpse like a princess waiting to be awoken by true love's kiss. Regardless of whether we are talking about a literal "hell" or not, Jesus fully descended into death, Hades, the spirit-world, or whatever else we might choose to call it.
According to Peter, he proclaimed the good news of hope to those in prison there. In some way, captives were released (Ephesians 4:8). It remains unclear who these captives included or what their "prison" entailed, but we do see the dead being raised after Jesus was crucified.
... The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Doom may simply be defined as "death". Whatever Jesus did between taking his last breath on the cross and stepping out of the tomb, we can be certain of this: he declared one final and absolute judgement against death and "doom."
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55
Whatever Jesus did between taking his last breath on the cross and stepping out of the tomb, we can be certain of this: he declared one final and absolute judgement against death and "doom."
Let us arise today in the strength of Christ's victory of death and His final judgement of doom.
What do you think about the idea that the strength of Christ is present and active during those three days between his death and resurrection?
What does the "judgement of doom" mean to you?
How does Christ's power to set free the prisoners of death give you hope?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
... I arise today,
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels ...