St. Lazarus' tomb, Bethany.
Largely ignored by much of Christendom,
the Orthodox today celebrate “Lazarus
Saturday” in something of a prequel to next
weekend’s Pascha. It is, indeed a little Pascha
just before the greater one. And this, of course, was
arranged by Christ Himself, who raised His friend
Lazarus from the dead as something of a last action
before entering Jerusalem and beginning His slow ascent
to Golgotha through the days of next week (Orthodox
celebrate Pascha a week later than Western Christians
One of the hymns of the Vigil of Lazarus Saturday says
that Christ “stole him from among the dead.” I
rather like the phrase. Next weekend there will be no
stealing, but a blasting of the gates of hell itself. What
he does for Lazarus he will do for all.
Lazarus, of course, is different from those previously
raised from the dead by Christ (such as the daughter of
Jairus). Lazarus had been four days day and corruption of
the body had already set in. “My Lord, he
stinks!” one of his sisters explained when Christ
requested to be shown to the tomb.
Steps leading to Lazarus' tomb, Bethany.
I sat in that tomb last September, as I
mentioned in my last post. It is not particularly
notable as a shrine. It is today, in the possession of
a private, Muslim family. You pay to get in. Several of
our pilgrims did not want to pay to go in. I could not
Lazarus is an important character in 19th century Russian
literature. Raskolnikov, in Crime and Punishment,
finds the beginning of his repentance of the crime of
murder, by listening to a reading of the story of Lazarus.
It is, for many, and properly so, a reminder of the
universal resurrection. What Christ has done for Lazarus
He will do for all.
For me, he is also a sign of the
universal entombment. That 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 are
often 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
Glory to God For All Things
15 апреля 2011 г.