April 16, 2011

Saturday of the Raising of Lazarus

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

On Saturday of the Sixth Week, the Holy Church commemorates the miracle of raising Lazarus accomplished by the Savior six days before the Jewish Passover during which He suffered (John 11:45-57). The Holy Church glorifies the raising of Lazarus, as proof of the divine power of Jesus Christ and as evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the general resurrection of all the dead, as is expressed in the Troparion of the feast. The faithful finding out the great value accomplished by the Lord remembered in today's miracle, the Holy Church hymns:

O Lord, your voice destroyed the kingdom of Hades and the word of Your authority raised from the grave the one who was dead four days, and Lazarus became once again the saving first fruits of the regeneration of the world. All things are possible to You, O Master and King of all.

But at the same time the Holy Church reminds also that the commemoration of this event has served as the beginning of the resolute revolt of the council of the priests and Pharisees against the Savior. Performed before the eyes of innumerable people, the great miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus turned many to the faith in Jesus Christ and caused the strongest indignation against Him by the high priests and elders of Judah, and the Sanhedrin now decided, upon the advice of Caiaphas to arrest Jesus only where it will be possible (John 11, 47-50). Thus the paradigm of the resurrection of Lazarus served as the direct reason for the condemnation of the Savior to death. Therefore since the very first century the Christian Divine Services were established to remember this great miracle before the Passion Week itself. In the Fourth century the general Church considered the resurrection of Lazarus a solemn feast as can be seen from the set of homilies for this day by St. John Chrysostom, the Blessed Augustine, and others. In the VII and VIII centuries the sacred church hymnographers: St. Andrew of Crete, St. Cosmas of Maium and St. John of Damascus have created special hymns and canons for this feast that are still sung to this day.