‘On holy Saturday there is the descent of the dead Jesus to hell, that is .. . his solidarity … with those who have lost their way from God … . In this finality (of death) the dead Son descends … He is .. . dead together with them. And exactly in that way he disturbs the absolute loneliness striven for by the sinner: the sinner, who wants to be “damned” apart from God, finds God again in his loneliness, but God in the absolute weakness of love who … enters into solidarity with those damning themselves’ (Pneuma and Institution, 408f). However much the sinner may seek to put’ himself beyond God in ‘the complete loneliness of being- only-for-oneself, God himself enters into this very loneliness as someone who is ever more lonely … even what we call “hell” is, although it is the place of desolation, always still a christological place’ (ibid., 444). Von Balthasar leaves the question of the response of those in Hell to the presence of Christ unanswered.What he seems to want to insist upon is the experience of Christ by those who have used their free will to reject Him. So Christ is present as Love, but perhaps is experienced as Love lost, Love denied, Love rejected. If Dante is right is denying any movement of the heart or mind towards any other -since those in the pit of Hell are frozen, then perhaps there is a desire at last to say “Yes” to God but the inability to enact it. Or perhaps the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is greater even than their refusal. This should be, at any rate, our hope. We truly should pray, pray, pray that no one remains in Hell. His love should become our love, His desire, our desire, His hope, our hope. Mercy, mercy, mercy. Any thoughts?
Hans Urs Von Balthasar