For Orthodox Christians, today is Lazarus Saturday. We don’t celebrate Easter until next week, but the raising of Lazarus gives us a glimpse of Christ’s own rising from the dead a week later, and of our own coming resurrection.
This year I am a sponsor/godmother to a catechumen who will be baptized a week from today; last night I attended the last of her classes with her, and listened in on the explanation of all the services to come this week, and their meaning in our lives.
I was reminded of my own baptism five years ago, and also filled with joy in remembering and anticipating the many stops along this last stretch of the journey to Pascha. The liturgical landscape is marked by beloved hymns and prayers I have sung year after year, and which will bring me into the shining presence of Christ again, by His grace.
It’s easy to be emotional today, even thinking about an experience that is not primarily emotional, because I am housebound for a relatively minor disability, and have to miss a few services this coming week. So I’m feeling sorry for myself, but trying to be thankful at the same time, and accept all the blessings God is giving me.
When God is constantly pouring down love and blessing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or confused. One day, the blessings look to any passerby to be good fortune, and another day, it takes a discerning eye to see Him, and be at peace. Even in the church services there are so many “things” going on that I can never attend to them all at once. One time I notice a particular hymn and how it blends perfectly into the whole message of the day; another time I spend most of the service in a battle just to return again and again from my distracting thoughts.
In my large parish we have numerous opportunities to participate in the services held, especially during Lent and Holy Week. I’m sure there is no one who can attend all of them, even the priests. Because circumstances change, including the circumstances of our own hearts and health, every Lent is at least a little different in how God deals with us. The upcoming week is part of that reality of having to live day-by-day and moment-by-moment, in thankfulness.
So often I come up against my own weakness and laziness. Father Stephen touches on this in his recent blog post about Lazarus, relating his meditations while sitting in the tomb of Lazarus a few years ago:
For me, he is also a sign of the universal entombment. Even before we die, we have frequently begun to inhabit our tombs. We live our life with the doors closed (and we stink). Our hearts can be places of corruption and not the habitation of the good God. Or, at best, we ask Him to visit us as He visited Lazarus. That visit brought tears to the eyes of Christ. The state of our corruption makes Him weep. It is such a contradiction to the will of God. We were not created for the tomb.
I also note that in the story of Lazarus – even in his being raised from the dead – he rises in weakness. He remains bound by his graveclothes. Someone must “unbind” him. We ourselves, having been plunged into the waters of Baptism and robed with the righteousness of Christ, too often exchange those glorious robes for graveclothes. Christ has made us alive, be we remain bound like dead men.
I sat in the tomb of Lazarus because it seemed so familiar.
Whether you celebrate tomorrow or next week, may your celebration of the Resurrection be a glorious feast.