We used the forty days of our Lenten Journey to consciously turn away from the darkness brought on by sin, and towards the light of saving grace offered by Christ. It culminates tonight at the Easter Vigil with the renewal of promises we made at our Baptism, while new Christians make the same pledge as they receive the first of the Sacraments of Initiation.
On this day, we contemplate Christ’s “preaching to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19), following his own death. In this act, Christ brought the Good News to the righteous dead, giving them the opportunity to receive eternal salvation that could only come through him.
Until Christ was glorified through his death and resurrection, even the living could have been considered “spirits in prison”, or at least spirits waiting to be taken to prison following physical death. It was not until that moment in Salvation History that the spirits of those who died, even in righteousness, no longer had to endure the wait for the fulfilment and revelation of the Father’s plan for their redemption.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1022) tells us that now, at the moment of death, man faces “a particular judgement” and the spirits of the righteous, instead of enduring a wait, will be granted “either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately”.
How great the mercy of our God who offers us the opportunity, choice and hope of never spending a day away from Him!