A friend asks:
From the Midnight Office of the Service of Pascha: “Through death Thou dost transform what is mortal, and through burial Thou dost transform what is corruptible; for in a manner befitting God Thou dost make incorrupt and immortal the nature which Thou hast assumed, since Thy flesh did not see corruption and in a wondrous manner Thy soul was not abandoned in hell.”
My question: The part “since Thy flesh did not see corruption”…. Could you share with me what the Church fathers say on this? Christ was fully man (and of course fully God), but His flesh did not see corruption while in the tomb. Help me understand this.
Also, did Christ descend into Hades “bodily”?
Christ’s body descended into the earth – that is, it was buried. Meanwhile, as his body rested on the sabbath, Christ himself was in Hades busting down the doors and breaking the captives free.
Christ died bodily, in order to enter into our death and destroy it from the inside. But he wasn’t by nature subject to death, so decay never had a chance to defile his all-pure body.
It’s like when the woman with the issue of blood touched him: Christ didn’t “catch” her ceremonial defilement under the Jewish law; instead, he cleansed her. When he contacted lepers, he didn’t get leprosy; they got his wholeness. In his baptism, it’s been said that Jesus didn’t get wet; the waters got Jesus! And when God the Word entered into Adam’s race, he didn’t catch Adam’s spiritual death and bodily corruptibility; instead, Christ inaugurated a new humanity in his own holy, immortal, life-giving image.
So Christ, who is fully human but not an heir of Adam’s fall, didn’t leave behind a corruptible body. That’s why in Acts 2:27 St Peter quotes Psalm 15:10 LXX, “For thou wilt not abandon my soul in hades, nor wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.”
Peter goes on to explain, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, foreseeing this, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that his soul was not left in Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”