Harrowing of Hades: Holy Friday Retreat

As Holy Week intensifies, I am finally finishing my notes for teachers for our parish’s Holy Friday Retreat.

Every year, families take Holy Friday off work or school and gather for the various services of the day (Royal Hours, The Descent from the Cross, The Lamentations Service, etc.) and in between, we spend time together as a parish, decorating Christ’s tomb and cleaning the church, and enjoying an educational retreat at 1pm. We split into groups — preschoolers, early elementary, later elementary, middle school, high school and adults — to explore a topic or theme relevant to Holy Friday, and then we try to come together after to share what we’ve learned.

You’ll find Anastasis: The Harrowing of Hades at Amazon.com

This year, we’ve discovered a beautiful new graphic novel called Anastasis: The Harrowing of Hades, and we’re building our retreat around it.

You’re welcome to download our retreat plan and to see if something like this might work in your parish, or in your family.


This is the coloring book my daughter, Vasi Bjeletich, put together for younger kids, inspired by Michael Elergan’s beautiful work in the graphic novel. We apologize for splitting it into two files, but the site had size limits for the files we can store here.

PDF file: Harrowing of Hades Coloring Book PART ONE

PDF file: Harrowing of Hades Coloring Book PART TWO


About Elissa Bjeletich Davis

Elissa Bjeletich is the mother of five daughters, and serves as the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas. Find more information on her website: elissabjeletich.com


  1. Oh dear Elijah, I have been reading your blog for at lest five years and some times have used your ideas for catechism. Yet this is the first time I feel your teaching so relevant to me as we are about to migrate as a priest’s family out of an Orthodox country to a western culture. My first time as a “missionary”. And suddenly your experience as an Orthodox in US becomes totally relevant to me. Thank you for being there! God bless all your efforts and your Sunday school ministry. Happy Easter!

    1. Glory be to God! Thank you for your kind words, Matushka! Isn’t it amazing that God was already preparing the way before you even knew it. May God bless your efforts in a new land — we need your witness in the West!

  2. Dear Elissa – Christ is risen! I saw your retreat from a few years ago this Lent and used the family-style jigsaw format to fit our parish Holy Friday Retreat. We called it “From Paradise to Paradise” and also talked about the Expulsion from Paradise and Christ’s descent into Hades. What a blessed “coincidence” that you did the same topic this year, I had to laugh when I saw this post today. May you have a blessed Paschal season!

    1. Truly He is risen! How nice to have been on the same page this year, Presvytera! I hope you had a beautiful Holy Friday and are now relaxing into a lovely Bright Week!

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