Lazarus Saturday (2017)

26459992532_fa78fda5db_nHoly Week is designed to be a spiritual sojourn, a chance to reflect not only on Christ’s last week on earth leading to His crucifixion and resurrection, but also on our own relationship to Him and to His Church.   Great Lent officially ends on a Friday in the Church’s liturgical calendar.  The first thing we do at the end of Lent is to commemorate Christ raising His friend Lazarus from the dead on Saturday.  The next day, Sunday, celebrates Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem which is also one of the Twelve Major Feasts of the liturgical year.  This Feast marks the transition to Holy Week.  Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday both pre-figure the events of Christ’s resurrection and entry into the Heavenly Temple.   Think about them as you make your spiritual journey toward  Pascha.   The Cross and the tomb will both be empty, and yet they are  full signs of the divinity of Christ.

Lazarus Saturday: Jesus Wept John 11:1-45

“‘Jesus wept.’ The perfect joy of His divine nature did not exclude tears from His human nature. The evangelist adds other touches to his reference to the Savior’s tears. Near Lazarus’ tomb the Saviour “groaned…troubled Himself.” How are we to understand this emotion of Christ, because in the end Jesus knows that He is going to raise Lazarus? Perhaps we must see in the Saviour’s sorrow something more than compassion for a friend who has died, but who will soon rise again. Jesus weeps over the universal destiny of men, over death which afflicts this human nature of ours which the Father had made so beautiful. Jesus weeps over all of man’s suffering, the consequences of sin. The God-Man takes this suffering on Himself. His sorrow is His share in the world’s sorrow.”  (A Monk of the Eastern Church, Jesus: A Dialogue with the Savior, pp. 71-72)

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The sins of the world cause the Son of God to weep. How should I feel about my own sins?  What about the sins of others?    In Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 God says He had no desire for the death of anyone, even of sinners.   Yet death reigned on earth – at least until the coming of Christ (see Romans 5).  It is my sins that lead to the death of Christ on the cross. If I confessed my sins, how do I now live the remaining time of my life in repentance?

Palm Sunday 2016

It was the miracle of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead which caused Jerusalem to welcome Christ on the next day, Palm Sunday as one who comes in the Name of the Lord.  An excitement was building among some people that the signs were there – perhaps Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is Lord.

“The people therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met Him, for that they had heard that He had done this miracle.

Who brings joy to a house? A welcome guest.

Who brings even greater joy to a house? The householder, returning after a long absence.

Happy the hands that received the Lord Jesus as a welcome Guest!

Happy the lips that greeted Him as a Friend!

Happy the souls who made their reverence to Him as the Householder with a song of welcome!”

(Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Homilies, pp 185-186)

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Palm Sunday (2015)

“We are so used to the idea that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, that we forget that he was in fact recognized as King, even if only on one day and for a few hours. And although his kingship is hidden from the world now, we still acknowledge him as our King.

We made this confession in baptism: that everything in our life and in the world belongs to him; that there is nothing over which he is not, for us, the true ruler; that we subject every area of our lives to him, to save and redeem. Taking up the palms and making this proclamation is a renewal of our baptismal pledge: that Christ and his Kingdom is our only reality. . . .

This is what happened to all those who today greet Christ with palms and the Hosanna. When they realize that his sight is not set on their goals, it only takes a few days before they begin to clamor for his death.

We know that this is the tendency or the momentum of the world, the world which lives in us, too; and we know that the death of Christ is not only the result of our sin and insanity, but it is, more importantly, God’s answer to that insanity—that this is what divine love looks like.

We know this already; we knew it when we were baptized—we were, after all, baptized into the death of Christ, in order to rise with him. Knowing this, we must make sure, as we once again follow Christ to Golgotha, the Passion, to his crucifixion and exaltation, that it is this Jesus that determines for us what is good, true, beautiful, and gracious. We need, as it were, to allow our notion of what is good to be crucified with him, to take a new shape in what he reveals to us about truth and love.” (John Behr, THE CROSS STANDS WHILE THE WORLD TURNS, pp 54-55)

It is the God incarnate who dies on the cross who determines what is good and true and beautiful.   The world showed its hatred for Him. It still does. ISIS hates Christ and still wishes to crucify the God who is love. It is however, the God who voluntarily submits Himself to crucifixion whom we follow to death, not only in baptism, but whenever it comes to our own will. In Holy Week we reaffirm our faithfulness to this Christ, the one who dies on the cross for the salvation of the world rather than summoning armies of angels from heaven to save Himself from the evil of the world.