Page references to Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale. Comments by me.
Death truly is, without Holy Saturday, the undiscovered country. The only way in which death speaks is when the silence of Holy Saturday is disclosed (79). It is a fundamental problem in the matter of the Son and the Father.
If without the Son no one can see the Father nor can anyone come to the Father, and if, without him, the Father is revealed to nobody, then when the Son, the Word of the Father, is dead, then no one can see God, hear of him or attain him. And this day exists, when the Son is dead and the Father, accordingly is inaccessible (49).
The matter of the Son of God’s being-dead matters immensely. If the Father’s image in the world is the Son, if the Father’s Word is the Son, then, if the Son is not there, the Father truly is unknown, unheard, un-imaged. But, as it will be seen with resurrection, this is a disclosing silence if the Son is raised from the dead.
This marks a significant departure from the view of Christ’s being dead is the harrowing of hell. There, Christ’s activity on Holy Saturday is the active scourging of the devil, publicly displaying his victory over death in the heart of death and condemnation itself, the dead in hell. Activity is the activity of one who is alive.
"…the real object of a theology of Holy Saturday does not consist in the completed state which follows on the last act in the self-surrender of the incarnate Son to his Father—something which the structure of every individual person, would entail. Rather does that object consist in the something unique, expressed in the ‘realization’ of all Godlessness, of all the sins of the world…"(51-52).
The hiatus, as von Balthasar calls it, this breach or great rupture, this “grosser Not” as Hegel’s favorite hymn has it, can be bridged or divested of its abyss by finding either universal laws in it or by avoiding its uniqueness in some way. The true way through this abyss is not to avoid the problems but confront it. Theology cannot survive Holy Saturday. Words are taken away as the Word himself is! Only the Word which speaks in Easter can bridge this gap and disclose the slience of Saturday.