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April 16, 2022

On the Resurrection of Lazarus (Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi)

By Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

I will remind you of a beautiful saying of our great father Epiphanios, Bishop of Cyprus, who once spoke at the beginning of one of his discourses. "Six days before Pascha, through the five senses, He who was four days dead was given by He who rose on the third day, to the two sisters, their one brother."

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who completed His mission and healed the universal wound and in six days would surrender to His all-immaculate passion, where He would seal the success of our salvation, showed, as a prelude to us His disciples and to all the world, that there is a resurrection of the dead and that He is indeed "the Resurrection and the Life".

Just before these shocking events, that is, the resurrection of the Lord, the resurrection of Lazarus, who, as you know, was a friend of Christ, preceded by six days. And in the house of Simon the leper, a Pharisee, Lazarus's father, because he was faithful, did the Lord delight, and in His friendship with this family.

He resurrected Lazarus, of course, not so much to show the power of His godly majesty, after all, He had done so earlier in other cases, but to show that the prelude to the crushing of death and the general resurrection of human nature and restoration of all creation was approaching, having become "subject to decay" due to the fall of man.

We bring the historical event of the resurrection of Lazarus as a reference, as many times our Fathers do by interpreting the Bible, in order to thus rise to a spiritual conclusion, which will be of great benefit to us.

Everything contained in the Bible has multiple meanings.

The resurrection of the historical Lazarus took place then, but this, transferred to the allegory, acts every day in the souls of the people. The reference is as follows. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is always with us, as He Himself confesses, "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age", turns and reviews the situation of each one and secretly expresses His heavenly powers to the saved: "Lazarus our friend is asleep."

Each of us is a dead Lazarus and a friend of our Jesus, because He was sacrificed for us, He cares for everyone. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the omniscient God, the all-good Master and our true Father, seeing our death, constantly cries out to His heavenly powers: "Lazarus our friend is asleep."

Now which of us who are asleep will be able to arouse His sympathy so that He may intervene and resurrect him? For He alone confessed of Himself, "I am the resurrection and the life." As it is mentioned, when Lazarus's older sister Martha, although she believed in Jesus Christ, nevertheless, from the groan of pain having lost her only brother, forgetting the power of the resurrection that was in Him, began to say with a complaint: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died".

And Jesus answered, "Your brother will be resurrected!" Again she does not understand the meaning and insists: "Yes, Lord, I know that on the last day of regeneration he too will be resurrected." Then Jesus declares: “I am the resurrection and the life."

Well, this is who our Jesus is who lives with us as the eternal and permanent resurrection and expects the resurrection of each of us. When will we turn to Him to express the pain of our death, so that He will shout to us: "Lazarus, come out". To do this we need supporters, as Lazarus had his two sisters, Martha and Mary.

According to the Fathers, Martha symbolizes practical work, practical repentance and physical works. And Mary symbolizes theoria, the spiritual introversion through which every rational soul communicates with God.

Practical repentance consists of the pain, mourning, and weeping "for the sins of the past," and the mourning for the acquisition of the virtues and gifts that Jesus has given and belong to each of us.

According to Saint John, we will see our Lord on that day of regenration and we will be like Him. "God in the midst of Gods" in the form of the archetype.

In order to be found worthy of this, we must, as I said, first of all acquire constant sincere practical repentance, which will lead us to theoria. Because we have practically sinned, we have practically denied our Jesus, we have practically insulted and betrayed Him, therefore practically now let us go back and prove that we will no longer bend our knees in front of every image of sin.

We are now obliged, each of us, to acquire the two sisters, the real act of repentance that leads us away from any transgression of the commandment. There is no denial of God by any rational being, even by those atheists, materialists and anarchists. Let them boast with their lips. They cannot deny God, because in order to be able to deny a thing, we must be able to abolish it. Then we will brag about our disbelief that it really does not exist, that we destroyed it. If we deny Him, says Paul, He remains faithful. So what is denial since things are like this? Denial is in violation of the commandment. This is what world history teaches us. Both the human and the angelic elements, which came down and fell, did not deny God, but the command. And it was precisely the violation of the commandment, which is considered a denial, that caused the fall and death. Now in our case the way of return is the practical confession. From where we fell into error and were seduced and began to break the commandments of our Christ and tore down our personality, we will return through the same door. We must stop sinning, denying Him and betraying Him. Once we reach this state through His Grace, then deeper in our being will take root this sense of repentance that will cause us mourning and pain and tears. Then the mind free from the influence and captivity of external errors, of external bankruptcy, turns to God and constantly mourns asking for His mercy and this is the position of Mary. When the two sisters are acquired, be sure that the Lazarus mind then, of our soul, will be resurrected, as it was then in the historical Lazarus. And then, as the Gospel states, our Jesus visited Lazarus's house and they presented him with a table and Lazarus "was with those who were with Him." In this way, Lazarus' mind will be with our Jesus in spiritual joy, where He assures us that "I go to prepare a place for you". There in most heavenly gladness, as heirs of God and co-heirs of our Jesus, we, like Lazarus at the time, will be in the same altar "praying together", and not mourning death, but rejoicing in our resurrection.

Let each of us hasten to acquire without delay the virtues represented by the two sisters, Martha and Mary, who are capable of persuading our Jesus to present the corpse of the dead mind and to command as the Almighty Word the "Lazarus, come forth," out From the tomb of the senses and "enter into the joy of your Lord". Amen.

Source: From the book Αθωνικά μηνύματα, Ψυχωφελή Βατοπαιδινά, Έκδοσις Ιεράς Μεγίστης Μονής Βατοπαιδίου, Άγιον Όρος 1999. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.