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Lazarus Saturday – April 11th 2009

11 April 2009

Lazarus Saturday
By the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

“Great Lent is completed and comes to an end with two bright,
festal days, or rather, a two-in-one. two-day feast. This is Lazarus
Saturday, recalling Christ’s raising of his dead friend Lazarus,
recalling Palm Sunday, when we celebrate Christ’s triumphal
entrance into Jerusalem six days before he was betrayed to suffer
and die on the cross. In these two bright days, the Church reveals
to us the authentic meaning of Christ’s voluntary sacrifice and
saving death before we once again become witnesses of Christ’s

Christ was far from Jerusalem when Lazarus died, and it was not
until four days later that he arrived in Bethany and met Lazarus’
sisters. Martha and Mary, and his weeping and grieving friends. The
gospel of St. John recounts this meeting in detail, beginning with his
conversation with Martha and Mary. Both of them tell Christ, ‘Lord, if
you had been here, my brother would not have died…’ (Jn 11:21,
32). And Christ answers: ‘Your brother will rise again’ (Jn 11:23).
But regardless of this answer, when He saw the weeping of the
sisters and their friends, He himself ‘was deeply moved in spirit and
troubled…’ (Jn 11:33) Approaching the grave, He himself wept, and
those around said, ‘see how he loved him!’ (Jn 11:36). Christ
ordered that the stone lying against the grave be taken away. And
when they had removed the stone, ‘He cried with a loud voice,
‘Lazarus, come forth!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet
bound with bandages…’ (Jn 11:43-44).

What is the meaning of this event which the Church celebrates so
brightly, so joyfully, so victoriously on Lazarus Saturday? How can
we reconcile Christ’s sadness and tears with his power to raise the
dead? Through its entire celebration, the Church replies that Christ
weeps because, in seeing the death of his friend, He sees also
death’s victory over the whole world; He sees that death, which God
did not create, has usurped the throne and now rules over the
world, poisoning life, turning everything into a meaningless stream
of days flowing mercilessly towards the abyss. Then comes this
command, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ Here is the miracle of love
triumphant over death, a summons announcing Christ’s declaration
of war on death, a vow that death itself will be destroyed and put to
death. And in order to destroy death and its darkness, Christ
himself, and this means God himself, love itself, life itself, descends
into the grave to encounter death face to face in order to annihilate
it and give us the eternal life God created us to possess…”

Taken from, “Celebration of Faith” Sermons, Vol. 2 “The Church
Year” by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, 1994.

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