– Celebration of the “First Resurrection”
– The icon of the Descent into Hades
On Holy Saturday morning at church, the Vespers and Divine Liturgy of Saturday evening take place by anticipation. This service is commonly called the “First Resurrection” and it celebrates Christ’s descent into Hades. While our Lord’s body was entombed, His soul descended into Hell to fight and free the souls already trapped there.
At some point in the service, the priest tosses laurel leaves all around the church, exclaiming: “Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth: for Thou shall take all heathen to Thine inheritance!“. At this moment, the faithful customarily make a big commotion, banging on their seats, on drums, or even on pots and pans that they have brought from home.
The icon of the day is called “The Descent into Hades”or the “Harrowing of Hell”. Some basic facts about it:
- Our Lord is victoriously descending into Hades, and this is depicted by His forceful movement and His glorious robes. He is also surrounded by a mandorla, a luminous almond shape, which symbolizes the uncreated eternal light of God.
- The bars Christ is stepping on are the gates of Hades, which have been broken by Him. They are in the shape of a cross, to signify the instrument of our salvation. There are keys and locks strewn in the abyss below, symbolizing that Christ has released us from our bondage of death. A chained skeletal figure may also be shown lying under the broken doors. That is Death, Satan or a personified Hades, bound and defeated by our Lord.
- Christ is pulling two figures out from their graves, holding one in each hand; they are Adam and Eve, shown in old age, as they have been waiting for our Lord to come and rescue them in the underworld for a very long time. This signifies that Christ’s victory redeems all mankind from the very beginning.
- Surrounding the victorious Christ are John the Baptist and the Old Testament Righteous. Just like Adam and Eve, they have all been waiting for the Messiah to free them from the underworld, so they can join God and the angels in Heaven.
Bible reading: Matthew 28: 1-20
We created two projects to help experience the celebrations of the day:
- A homemade drum for the children to take along and use at the service of the “First Resurrection”.
- A flower-framed icon of the Resurrection, similar to the one we created for Holy Friday.
Tin can drum
You will need
- A large can, such as a coffee can – we used a tomato sauce can in the demonstration, about 5 inches in diameter
- A printout of our printable packet above (premium printer paper works best)
- Two jumbo craft sticks or two unsharpened pencils
- Duct tape (we used a wide silver one, but any type of duct tape will do)
- A long piece of ribbon
- Scissors and glue (we prefer the less messy glue sticks over liquid glue)
How to make the drum
First, use some duct tape to make the sharp part of the can safe to handle. We wrapped a piece of tape all around the open edge of the can, letting part of the tape hang beyond the edge of the can. We cut slits on the tape, then folded each piece of tape to the inside of the can, pasting it firmly in place.
Tape the ribbon in place using the duct tape. We used two pieces of tape for each side, to make the handle sturdier. First we taped the ribbon on the can facing down, then we folded the ribbon up over the first tape, and taped it again.
Decorate the can and the craft sticks/pencils using the printouts. You can cut them in any shape and size that best fits the objects you are using.
Note: We purposely left the top part of the can without any decoration – leaving it this way makes the banging sound considerably louder. The sound is also clearer if the drum is hanging free, not placed on a table or another surface. If the handle is long enough, the child can hang the drum around his/her neck, and bang on it using both sticks.
Flower-framed Resurrection icon
This project may look complicated, but it is actually pretty simple. The flower-making is done in batches and if you make large flowers, then you don’t need to make that many. They are taped on the frame using Scotch tape (or glue dots if you have them), so there is no need to wait for any glue to dry – and there is also no mess!
You will need:
- A printout of the Resurrection icon from our printable packet above
- A large piece of poster board or cardboard (a leftover cardboard box piece can be used too)
- Tissue paper (or even paper napkins if tissue paper is unavailable) to make the flowers
How to make the flowers
Make the flower petal circles
Start with a full sheet of tissue paper. You can stack a few sheets of tissue paper together to make more flowers at the same time. First fold the paper in half. Then fold in half again.
Fold the bottom corner up diagonally to make a triangle. Depending on the original size of your paper, there may or may not be a rectangle protruding at the top edge of the triangle. If there is a rectangle, cut it off so that only the triangle remains.
Fold the triangle in half to make a smaller triangle. Fold in half one more time.
Hold the triangle from the corner and cut off a scalloped design on the free edge.
Unfold the triangle, and your flower petal circles are ready.
Make the leaves
Start with a full sheet of tissue paper. You can stack a few sheets of tissue paper together to make more leaves at the same time. Fold the paper a few times. Hold the folded paper firmly and cut out the leaves all at once.
Assemble the flowers
Take one or two flower petal circles. Loosely fold in half, then in half again.
Place one or two leaves between the flower petals.
Twist and crimp the paper at the corner to hold everything in place. Open up the petals pressing down at the center with your fingers and your flower is ready!
How to make the icon
The size of the poster board or cardboard has to be larger than the icon, so when the icon is placed on it, there is a generous frame all around. Glue the icon on the poster board or cardboard. Then tape the flowers on the frame. Ready!
Free Lesson Plan and Extra Activities
We have created a comprehensive lesson plan containing material that you can use together with the projects on this page to explore the celebrated themes more fully. Please visit our web page Four Icons for Pascha.
- Great and Holy Saturday, Greek Orthodox Church of America
- Great and Holy Saturday, Orthodox Church in America