Tag Archives: Lazarus Saturday

Beauty meets death.

LAZARUS SATURDAY

“’It stinketh,’ say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse, and this awful warning applies to the whole world, to all life. God is Life and the Giver of Life. He called man into the Divine reality of Life and behold ‘it stinketh’…The world was created to reflect and proclaim the glory of God and ‘it stinketh.’

“At the grave of Lazarus God encounters Death, the reality of anti-life, of destruction and despair. He meets His Enemy, who has taken away from Him His World and become its prince. And we who follow Jesus, as He approaches the grave, enter with Him into that hour of His, which He announced so often as the climax and the fulfillment of his whole work. The Cross, its necessity and universal meaning are announced in the shortest verse of the Gospel: ‘and Jesus wept’ …We understand now that it is because He wept, i.e., loved His friend Lazarus, that Jesus had the power of calling him back to life.

“The power of Resurrection is not a Divine ‘power in itself,’ but power of love, or rather love as power. God is Love and Love is Life, Love creates Life…It is Love that weeps at the grave and it is Love that restores life. This is the meaning of the Divine tears of Jesus. In them love is at work again—recreating, redeeming, restoring the darkened life of man: ‘Lazarus, come forth!…’ And this is why Lazarus Saturday is the beginning of both: the Cross, as the Supreme sacrifice of love, the Resurrection, as the ultimate triumph of love.”

-Fr. Alexander Schmemann

It is the end of Lent in the Orthodox Church. We enter Holy Week with Lazarus Saturday, and though we do fast until Pascha, it’s not technically Lent anymore for us. We now stop thinking about whether we succeeded or failed at Lent, because we need to focus on what God has done and be fully present for these last days of the remembering of the death and resurrection of the Lord.

Matins of Lazarus Saturday is a time to remember the whole story of how Lazarus had been dead four days when Jesus came into town and his friends said, “If only you had been here, he wouldn’t have died.” And Jesus wept. Then He showed his power over death, and raised Lazarus. And then followed the events that sent Him to His own death, which He also overcame for our sakes. His powerful beauty is still filling this world.

“Despite the effects of the Fall and despite our deep sinfulness, the world continues to be God’s creation. It has not ceased to be ‘altogether beautiful.’ Despite human alienation and suffering, the Divine Beauty is still present in our midst and still remains ever active, incessantly performing its work of healing and transfiguration. Even now beauty is saving the world, and it will always continue to do so. But it is the beauty of a God who is totally involved in the pain of the world that He has made, of a God who died on the Cross and on the third day rose victorious from the dead.”

–Metropolitan Kallistos

christ passion

 

(Old material from the archives, but Life ever new.)

First Lazarus, then palms.

Today was Lazarus Saturday, which has something of the flavor of Pascha, because when Christ raised Lazarus he showed that He had power over death. And eleven people were baptized this morning before the festal Divine Liturgy! That is a lot of joy right there, flowing from “the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.” We had a reception lunch for them, and afterward, no one wanted to go home. The afterglow was clinging to us who rejoiced with the new members, and we also experienced some of the joy of our own baptisms, whether we were able to remember them or not.

The night before, because I was sponsor for one of the catechumens, I attended their last class. Our rector urged the eleven who would the next day be Newly Illumined to forget about social media for Holy Week and Bright Week, and give themselves to accompanying Christ to the Cross by means of the church services. I am trying to do that, too…

But – oops – I looked at Facebook just now, and saw this status from Father Stephen Freeman (from Tennessee):

“It is said that Christ used Lazarus’ name when He raised him from the dead. Had He just said, ‘Come forth!’ everyone in their graves would have come forth.

“St. Paul writes that on the Last Day, Christ will descend from heaven with a shout! I suppose it will be a general, ‘Come forth!’ Sometimes I think it might be, ‘Ya’ll come forth!’ or the Aramaic equivalent.

“That great gettin’ up good morning!”

This evening we had moved on to Vigil for Palm Sunday, and blessing of palm branches. While some of us had been sitting and chatting this afternoon in warmth and light, other dear parishioners had been using the energy from their dose of grace to decorate the church.

“Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has assembled us.” That was one of the lines that I heard a lot at tonight’s service, and then, when the candle chandeliers that had been festooned with palm branches were set swinging, and I was standing under one of them, we sang the long Psalm hymn, “His mercy endureth forever.” Truly.

Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD!

It is because He wept.

LAZARUS SATURDAY

“It stinketh,” say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse, and this awful warning applies to the whole world, to all life. God is Life and the Giver of Life. He called man into the Divine reality of Life and behold “it stinketh”…The world was created to reflect and proclaim the glory of God and “it stinketh.”

At the grave of Lazarus God encounters Death, the reality of anti-life, of destruction and despair. He meets His Enemy, who has taken away from Him His World and become its prince. And we who follow Jesus, as He approaches the grave, enter with Him into that hour of His, which He announced so often as the climax and the fulfillment of his whole work. The Cross, its necessity and universal meaning are announced in the shortest verse of the Gospel: “and Jesus wept” …We understand now that it is because He wept, i.e., loved His friend Lazarus, that Jesus had the power of calling him back to life.

The power of Resurrection is not a Divine “power in itself,” but power of love, or rather love as power. God is Love and Love is Life, Love creates Life…It is Love that weeps at the grave and it is Love that restores life. This is the meaning of the Divine tears of Jesus. In them love is at work again—recreating, redeeming, restoring the darkened life of man: “Lazarus, come forth!…” And this is why Lazarus Saturday is the beginning of both: the Cross, as the Supreme sacrifice of love, the Resurrection, as the ultimate triumph of love.

-Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Icon from Sinai, 12th century

Lazarus and Flowers

In the West it is the end of Good Friday as I write, but this year for us Orthodox it issymp white roses the beginning of Lazarus Saturday, when we remember an event that starts out very poignantly, with Jesus’s friends lamenting the death of their brother, and Jesus Himself weeping.

This story of a death and of friends and family sorrowing is timely in my own life right now, and of course I have done some weeping lately – but mostly I wanted to write about the flowers that have come to me, and I may be stretching a bit to connect all these thoughts together.

Flowers have been coming into our house nearly every day for more than two weeks. They are beautiful bouquets and arrangements and plants, and when the first one arrived, before my husband died and on our wedding anniversary, the circumstances made it obvious that God had sent it by the hand of an angel, to convey His love and to assure me that Hebouquet CMc 2 will be my Husband, as it says in Isaiah 54: “For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel….” I cried a good deal over that bouquet, and as the florist delivery man and I became better acquainted day by day, I received every new gift with joy.

We know flowers not just as symbols, but primarily as real and exquisite works of art, lovely in themselves. I think the florist noticed the repeated name on each order and tried to make every creation a little different; we have been enjoying dozens of varieties and species of blooms, ferns, branches of shrubs, succulents in ever-changing combinations, all gorgeous.

Other friends brought their own original and unique arrangements, or sometimes just a contribution to a nosegay. Each was given a place in the house where it could minister to the crowd of family who were coming and going for a fortnight and often sleeping here (One night 15 of us slept under this roof.), but I think I was the symp mix w lupinemost nourished of anyone by all the sweet flower-love. These real and aromatic things helped to keep me aware of God’s presence as much as did the kind messages in cards, and the care packages of fruit and candy.

They also gave me a job to do. While my children took over the more difficult practical matters of phone calls, shopping, cooking and organizing a funeral, I was able to wander about tending my flowers, trimming the stems, changing the water, removing spent ones and recombining the longer-lasting blooms (Carnations win the prize for aging well.). It was and is an easy sort of gardening, and very soothing.

People have given our family flowers and other kindnesses because they love us; that makes them feel our sorrow with us. We don’t really need any more explanation than that, but there is another aspect to our sorrowing. I find what Fr. Alexander Schmemannsymp azalea says about Jesus’s tears to be helpful:

He weeps because He contemplates the miserable state of the world, created by God, and the miserable state of man, the king of creation… “It stinketh,” say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse, and this “it stinketh” can be applied to the whole of creation. God is Life and He called the man into this Divine reality of life and “he stinketh.” At the grave of Lazarus Jesus encounters Death — the power of sin and destruction, of hatred and despair. He meets the enemy of God. And we who follow Him are now introduced into the very heart of this hour of Jesus, the hour, which He so often mentioned. The forthcoming darkness of the Cross, its necessity, its universal meaning, all this is given in the shortest verse of the Gospel — “and Jesus wept.”
….

symp tulips The power of Resurrection is not a Divine “power in itself,” but the power of love, or rather, love as power. God is Love, and it is love that creates life; it is love that weeps at the grave and it is, therefore, love that restores life… This is the meaning of these Divine tears. They are tears of love and, therefore, in them is the power of life.

Perhaps Mary and Martha didn’t have as many flowers as I do when Lazarus died. They likely did have flower essences in the ointment they would have used to prepare their brother’s body for burial.

And they had the Lord, not just weeping with them for the wrongness of death, but in His love giving the ultimate gift, His own Self. Without the knowledge of that Love and the assurance of a coming Resurrection, what flowers can give wouldn’t be very satisfying. But while my husband walked this earth he and I shared Christ’s life-creating Love, and we still do. Flowers are one more reminder of that reality to my still-weeping heart.

symp w carnation