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April 8, 2023

Journey Through Holy Week: Saturday of Lazarus


Our Church celebrates the resurrection from the dead of Christ's friend Lazarus, and indeed four days after his death.

The Event

The story of the Evangelist John about the resurrection of Lazarus is astounding.

Lazarus was a Jew by birth and a Pharisee by doctrine. He was the son of Simon from Bethany and had sisters Martha and Mary. The whole family was attracted to and caught by Christ's teaching. Christ Himself called him His "friend". And John the Evangelist records the fact that Christ loved the three siblings.

A short time before His Passion and while Christ was beyond the Jordan River, and had already resurrected the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus and the only son of the widow of Nain, Lazarus became seriously ill and died.

And while Christ was still far from Bethany, He announced to His disciples that Lazarus "fell asleep".

It is the first time that death is called "sleep". From then on, the dead are called "reposed" by those who believe in Christ, since they are in a state of waiting for the common resurrection, and graveyards are called cemeteries.

When Christ arrived in Bethany, Martha met Him.

In the dialogue between them, Martha expressed her faith that Christ had the power to heal her brother and that she herself believes in the common resurrection.

And Christ revealed to her the great truth that "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even if he dies, he will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (John 10).

Then they reached their house and Christ tearfully asked to be shown the tomb of Lazarus. When He got there He asked that the grave be opened. Martha warned Him that Lazarus had already been dead for four days and had begun to decompose. Christ spoke to her authentically: "Didn't I tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"

The grave was opened by those present, and Christ, after a short prayer to His Father, ordered Lazarus: "Lazarus, come out."

Lazarus came out of the tomb, wrapped in burial cloths wrapped and stuck with wax, and the bystanders untied him at the orders of Christ.

The resurrection of Lazarus by Christ amazed everyone in Jerusalem, caused Christ's triumphal entry into the city, but also provoked the envy of the Jewish rulers against Him, which led them to crucify Him.


Lazarus After His Resurrection

After his resurrection, Lazarus lived another thirty years and became the Bishop of Kition in Cyprus, where he fled to escape the threat of the Jews. It is preserved that his omophorion was made by Mary the Theotokos herself.

It is said that he always had the bitterness of death in his mouth and that he did not say anything about Hades.


The Services and Ceremonies - Various Greek Customs

In the churches, a festal Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is held. The festal apolytykion is chanted which is common on both Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday:

"By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion, You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God. Like the children with palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death; Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!" (1st Tone)


Memorials

From the Saturday of Lazarus until the Sunday of Thomas, there are no memorial services in the Orthodox Church, because every human pain and prayer is overshadowed by this indication of the common resurrection, the Passion and the Cross of Christ and His glorious Resurrection.


Lazaroma

Christians usually call every person who dies "Lazarus" and his burial clothes are called "lazaroma".


Lazarinnes

"Lazarinnes", i.e. "sisters of Lazarus", are females who dress up and while holding the symbols of victory over death and spring flowers, they make public appearances and chant the Apolytikion of Lazarus and Palm Sunday as well as sing the carols of Lazarus. They also offer the bitter and salty bun that represents Lazarus, which are called "lazarakia".


Theology of the Feast

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

(From his book The Feasts of the Lord)

Wonderful is the interpretation that Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, concerning Christ's words: "Lazarus, come out" (John 10:44). Saint Andrew, interpreting this command of Christ, identifies two points.

First, with this command Christ orders Lazarus to rise, in order to show how the common resurrection will take place, and how every creature will be revived "in the blink of an eye."

Just as after His voice was heard and Lazarus began to move and leave the tomb, so will it be during the Second Coming of Christ with all people.

He who said "let there be light" and "let there be a firmament", orders him to "come out."

And indeed, as Saint Andrew says, we notice that strange things happened to Lazarus. His body began to activate, while all his functions had stopped. Then we see breath to be in the nostrils, veins to be full of blood, the voice to return to the pharynx, speech to enter the ears, eyes to have the ability to see, the sense of smell to function, walking done in a natural way and in general the whole body, after the soul had returned, is organized and functions normally.

Second, with this command, His friend Lazarus is ordered to be resurrected to see all the paradoxes and strange things that were going to happen in those days in Jerusalem.

Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, presents Christ speaking to Lazarus in the second person and telling him that he had to be resurrected in order to see Him crucified with the robbers, to be quenched with vinegar and gall, to be pierced on the side with a spear, to be tyrannized under the light of the sun, in the middle of the day, and the night to shade the sun, the Jews to blaspheme and the robber to theologize.

Therefore, in the case of Lazarus, the way of the common resurrection had to be confirmed, but also the terrible events that were going to happen in Jerusalem had to be witnessed.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 

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