Daily Meditations

The Saturday of Lazarus

The solemnities of Great Week are preceded by a two-day festival commemorating the resurrection of Lazaros and the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. These two events punctuate Christ’s ministry in a most dramatic way (Jn 11:1 – 12:19). By causing the final eruption of the unrelenting hostility of His enemies, who had been plotting to kill him, these two events precipitate Christ’s death.

At the very same time, however, these same events emphasize His divine authority. Through them Christ is revealed as the source of all life and the promised Messiah. For this reason, the interlude which separates Great Week from the Great Fast is Paschal in character. It is the harbinger of Christ’s victory over death and of the inrush of His kingdom into the life of the world.

The Saturday of Lazaros is counted among the major feasts of the Church. It is celebrated with great reverence and joy. The event of the raising of Lazaros is recorded in the Gospel of John (11:1-45). The hymnography of the feast interprets the theological significance of the event. Accordingly, the resurrection of Lazaros is viewed as a prophecy in action. It prefigures both the resurrection of Christ, as well as the general resurrection of all the dead in the end times.

The hymns of the feast also emphasize the biblical truth that the resurrection as such, is more than an event. It is a person, Christ Himself, who bestows eternal life now upon all who believe in Him, and not at some obscure future time (Jn 11: 25-26).

In addition, the resurrection of Lazaros occasioned the disclosure of Christ’s two natures, the divine and the human. He manifested His divine power by His foreknowledge of the death of Lazaros and by the final outcome, the miracle of his resurrection.

Also, in the course of the dramatic events Jesus displayed deep human emotions. The Gospel records His deep feelings of love, tenderness, sympathy and compassion, as well as distress and sadness. The narrative reports that He sighed from the heart and wept (Jn 11:5, 33, 35, 36, 38).

General Observations

Vestments – The Saturday of Lazaros and Palm Sunday are joyous festivals. Therefore, the priest wears festive vestments (white, gold, or green). The Holy Table is also adorned with a bright cover.

A Folk Tradition – An interesting sidelight is the folk tradition related to the Saturday of Lazaros. In many places groups of children visit neighboring homes to sing the Carols of Lazaros. In return, the people of the house give the children fresh eggs. The children bring the eggs to their homes. On Great Thursday the eggs are boiled in the traditional red dye for the Paschal celebration.

Fasting – By custom and tradition fish as well as oil and wine are permitted on the Saturday of Lazaros and Palm Sunday.

~Adapted from Alkiviadis Calivas, The Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, “Great Lent, Holy Week & Pascha,” Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, http://lent.goarch.org/articles/lent_lazaros_palm_sunday.asp.


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