Just as if a man were bound hand and foot with chains, and someone came and loosed his bands, and let him walk free without interference, so the Lord looses from its bonds the soul that is bound with the chains of death, and lets it go, and sets the mind free to walk at ease and unhindered into God’s air.
Suppose a man were in the middle of a river in full flood, and overwhelmed by the water lay lifeless, drowned, with dreadful monsters all round him.
If another man, who is not used to swimming, should wish to save the one who fell in, he too is lost, and is drowned with him. Clearly there is need of a skilled swimmer, an expert, to go out into the depth of the water of the gulf, and dive, and bring up the drowned man there among the monsters.
The water itself, when it sees a man skilled and knowing how to navigate it, helps such a man, and bears him up to the surface.
The soul, in the same way, has been plunged and drowned in the abyss of darkness and the deep of death, and is dead and parted from God among dreadful monsters; and who is able to go down into those secret chambers and the depths of hell and death, except that expert Workman who fashioned the body?
In His own person He enters into two quarters, into the depth of hell, and into the deep gulf of the heart, where the soul with its thoughts is held fast by death, and brings up out of the darksome hole the Adam that lay dead.
And death itself, through practice, becomes an assistance to man, like the water to the swimmer. What difficulty is there to God in entering into death, or into the deep gulf of the heart either, and calling up the dead Adam from thence?
In the natural world there are houses and tenements where mankind dwell, and there are places where wild beasts dwell, lions, or dragons, or other venomous beasts.
If the sun, which is but a creature, enters in every direction, through windows, through doors, and into the dens of lions, and into the holes of serpents, and comes out again without taking any harm, how much more does the God and Lord of all enter into the holes and dwelling-places where death pitched his tent, and into souls, and rescue Adam from thence without being injured by death?
The rain, too, comes down from heaven, and reaches down into the lower parts of the earth, and there moistens and renews the dried roots, and makes there a new growth.
Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 11,12-13, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.