Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Lazarus, Come Forth!" (A Despotic Voice, A Royal Shout, A Powerful Command)


By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Referring to the miraculous event of the resurrection of the close friend of Christ, Saint Lazarus of the Four Days, Saint Andrew the Bishop of Crete says in a homily: "The righteous Lazarus prepares a dinner table and invites the lovers of good works and lovers of spectacles and those who participate by imitation in the Passion of Christ to spiritual feasting."1

It is worth attending this spiritual feast and enjoying the teachings of this God-bearing Father of the Church regarding the righteous Lazarus, especially how he interprets the despotic words of Christ: "Lazarus, come forth,"2 as recorded by John the Evangelist.

A. "Lazarus, Come Forth!"

"He does not pray, nor does he say, 'Father, raise him,' but He cries out in a loud voice. He did this because in the future He will call all with the voice of a trumpet from the graves."3 That is, by saying these words He wants to show that He is the Creator of humanity with His beginingless Father and the consubstantial Holy Spirit. This is why Saint Andrew chants in his famous canon: "By Your word, O Word, You raised Your friend from corruption and the underworld."4 Also, as a foretaste of His glorious Second Coming, when He comes with the heavenly powers to judge the living and the dead, "the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first."5 And this voice of Christ, Theophanes the Kerameus says, "will be heard like a trumpet on the last day and the dead will rise."6

A despotic voice,

A royal shout,

A powerful command.

So the Jews will learn that the time is coming when "those in the graves" will hear the voice of Christ and will rise from their graves to meet their Master Christ, the Creator of all things. A friend addresses a friend, but a Master dictates: "Lazarus, come forth," for the Jews to understand that He also "will rise after three days after having tasted death."7

B. "Lazarus, Come Forth!"

"Encased in swathing bands, he came out of the tomb clad."8

With this act Christ wants to make the Jews and all those present who are in the small town of Bethany into witnesses of the event, that this miraculous event is nothing feigned, but a grand miracle. Because He Who will rise from the dead, after His voluntary Passion, will first raise Lazarus of the four days, in the words of Saint Andrew of Crete. He adds: "Seeing the hands and feet tied and the head covered and still the Jews did not believe in the miracle."9

And just as the Triune God with His creative word "spoke and brought forth, He commanded and created,"10 He Who in the words of Holy Scripture said: "Let us create man in our image and according to our likeness,"11 so also now He teaches us that with this despotic voice "in the blink of an eye all creation is animated, breath comes to the nostrils, the veins are full of blood, voice comes to the throat, words to the ear, sight to the eyes, smell to the land, and walking in nature the whole scene is animated."12 To put it simply, "where God wills, He conquers the order of nature."

And then, today and always these things will apply to those who firmly believe in the omnipotence of God, since Christ "is the same yesterday, today and forever."

C. "Lazarus, Come Forth!"

Christ cries out with a loud voice, according to the expression of Theophanes the Kerameus, to indicate that His word is active, great and powerful. "With this voice Christ made the power of Hades disappear and quickly souls appeared in the dead. The body which had dissolved, was powerfully rebuilt, and this is how the great miracle comes to be, supernaturally and inexpressibly... One did not rise from a bed of sickness and was breathing his last,... nor is He restoring to life a child who just died,... nor a young man who will soon be led to his grave, but a man already advanced in age, dead long before, in the advanced stages of decay in the earth and fallen from the needs of the body, and with one call he is brought back to life and comes forth, although he is tied up with strips of cloth."13

With his resurrection Lazarus of the four days comes to us today to remind us, that with the flesh (which is likened to the sister Martha), as well as with the soul (which is the lord of the body and is likened to the sister Mary),we should appeal to Christ, in order to resurrect our fallen nous from sin and death so we might also be able to have a vision of His face. Because if we do not see Him in this life as light, as Saint Paisios the Athonite would say, who repeats the theology of all the Fathers of the Church, then we will not be able to see this light in the Kingdom of Heaven to brighten us and illuminate us and make us partakers of this light.14

Notes:

1. Saint Andrew of Crete, Discourse 8, "On Lazarus of the Four Days", PG 97, 960A.

2. Jn. 11:44.

3. Saint Andrew of Crete, ibid 980B.

4. Ode 5, Canon of Compline for the Friday before Palm Sunday.

5. 1 Thess. 4:15.

6. Από την Ανάσταση του Λαζάρου στην Ανάσταση του Χριστού, Καλύβη Κοιμήσεως Θεοτόκου Ιεράς Σκήτης Κουτλουμουσίου, εκδ. Αρμός, σελ. 31.

7. Saint Andrew of Crete, ibid.

8. Ibid. 980C.

9. Ibid.

10. Ps. 32:9.

11. Gen. 1:26.

12. Saint Andrew of Crete, ibid 981C.

13. Από την Ανάσταση του Λαζάρου στην Ανάσταση του Χριστού, Καλύβη Κοιμήσεως Θεοτόκου Ιεράς Σκήτης Κουτλουμουσίου, εκδ. Αρμός, σελ. 32.

14. Service for the Reception of Holy Communion.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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