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Ikon: The Harrowing of Hell

Down through the tomb’s inward arch He has shouldered out into Limbo to gather them, dazed, from dreamless slumber: the merciful dead, the prophets, the innocents just His own age and those unnumbered others waiting here unaware, in an endless void He is ending now, stooping to tug at their hands, to pull them from their sarcophagi, dazzled, almost unwilling. Didmas, neighbor in death, Golgotha dust still streaked on the dried sweat of his body no one had washed and anointed, is here, for sequence is not known in Limbo; the promise, given from cross to cross at noon, arches beyond sunset and dawn. All these He will swiftly lead to the Paradise road: they are safe. That done, there must take place that struggle no human presumes to picture: living, dying, descending to rescue the just from shadow, were lesser travails than this: to break through earth and stone of the faithless world back to the cold sepulchre, tearstained stifling shroud; to break from them back into breath and heartbeat, and walk the world again, closed into days and weeks again, wounds of His anguish open, and Spirit streaming through every cell of flesh so that if mortal sight could bear to perceive it, it would be seen His mortal flesh was lit from within, now, and aching for home. He must return, first, in Divine patience, and know hunger again, and give

to humble friends the joy of giving Him food–fish and a honeycomb