Near the close of World War I, an American submarine was in trouble a few miles off the coast of Bermuda. The batteries were dead, and the air compressor would not work.
The men imprisoned inside the submarine did not lose hope, even when, after some hours, they began to feel the effects of escaping gas. Nor did they lose courage when their imprisonment lasted well into a second period of twenty-four hours. They now lay quietly in their bunks to save their bodily energy and to breathe as little of the remaining air as possible.
The sea off Bermuda in good weather is glassy smooth and blue. An American plane spotted the helpless submarine, well outlined against the ocean floor, and took the news to the mainland.
A cruiser was sent at once with divers and needed equipment. The captain was to direct the rescue. In record time the cruiser reached the place reported by the plane. In very little time the submarine was safely on the surface of the sea, being towed by the cruiser. Its tower hatch was open, and the submarine’s crew were breathing the air of freedom and joyful release.
In the Creed we say that Christ descended into hell. By this we mean that He went, after His death, to the place or state of rest called limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him, to take them to heaven. The souls in limbo had a much longer wait than the men in the submarine. They knew, through St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, and Simeon that the Saviour of men was on earth and that salvation was near, but they did not know their rescue would come. They could not have known that the Saviour would first pass through death, and would come to join them while His body was still in the tomb. He went to limbo to announce to those waiting souls the news that He had reopened heaven to mankind. The joy of the submarine crew at their rescue could not even be compared with the joy felt by the souls of the just when Christ told them that their long wait was ended, and heaven’s freedom was soon to be theirs.