When we come to the end of Great Lent, we enter into another special season in the church – from Lazarus Saturday to Holy Saturday. In this time we are especially thinking about death and resurrection – not only of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of our own. The raising of Lazarus is celebrated in Orthodoxy as prefiguring the universal resurrection at the end of time. Additionally, this liturgical season is and was especially devoted to a time for baptism, uniting new believers to the Savior. Liturgically, we personally experience and enter into the death and resurrection of Christ as we are buried with Him in baptism and then raised up from that watery grave to a new life. We participate in Christ’s death on earth and in being raised with him in baptism we anticipate what is awaiting us in the life of the world to come.
Baptism is also about faith, and we encounter faith in the first event commemorated during this special 8 day week in Christ’s raising his friend Lazarus. Lazarus has died, but does he have faith that Jesus is the Christ who can resurrect him from death?
“Then there is the death of Lazarus. Four days had passed. His dead body was already decomposing. How could one who had been dead for so many days believe and himself ask for the Deliverer? He could not possibly do so, but his sisters provided the faith for him. When they met the Lord, one sister fell down at his feet. He asked, ‘Where have you laid him?’ The other sister said, ‘Lord, by this time there will be a bad smell.’ Then the Lord said, ‘If you believe you will see the glory of God.’ As if to say, ‘As regards faith, you must take the place of the dead man.’ And the faith of the sisters succeeded in calling Lazarus back from the hereafter. [John 11:1-44]
So if these two women by believing in place of the other were able to secure his resurrection, how much more certainly will you be able to secure it for yourself by your own faith?
Perhaps your own faith is feeble. Nevertheless, the Lord who is love will stoop down to you, provided only you are penitent and can say sincerely from the depths of your soul: ‘Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.’ (Mark 9:23]” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem – d. 386AD, DRINKING FROM THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN, pp 152-153)
The community of faith believes in Christ, believes he does raise the dead. This is why we in faith bring others to Christ to be baptized. When we become a member of the Body of Christ in baptism, we join in believing with all other Christians that Jesus is Lord.
In the Baptism Liturgy the candidates prepared for baptism are given chance to bear witness to what they believe:
Priest: Have you united yourself to Christ?
Candidate: I have united myself to Christ.
Priest: Do you believe in Him?
Candidate: I believe in Him as King and God.
It is Christ’s kingship and kingdom we then celebrate on Palm Sunday as we commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, God’s holy city.