Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday

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nick cobb

Apr 5, 2001, 8:57:07 PM4/5/01

Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday
By Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

The week following the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt is called Palm or
Branch Week. At the Tuesday services of this week the Church recalls
that Jesus' friend Lazarus has died and that the Lord is going to raise
him from the dead (Jn 11). As the days continue toward Saturday, the
Church, in its hymns and verses, continues to follow Christ towards
Bethany to the tomb of Lazarus. On Friday evening, the eve of the
celebration of the Resurrection of Lazarus, the "great and saving forty
days" of Great Lent are formally brought to an end:

Having accomplished the forty days for the benefit of our souls, we pray
to Thee, O Lover of Man, that we may see the holy week of Thy passion,
that in it we may glorify Thy greatness and Thine unspeakable plan of
salvation for our sake. ... (Vesper Hymn)

Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time in the
entire Church Year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is
celebrated on another day. At the liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the
Church glorifies Christ as "the Resurrection and the Life" who, by
raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind
even before his own suffering and death.

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm
the universal resurrection, 0 Christ God! Like the children with the
branches of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna
in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!

Christ --the Joy, the Truth and the Light of All, the Life of the world
and its Resurrection -- has appeared in his goodness to those on earth.
He has become the Image of our Resurrection, granting divine forgiveness
to all (Kontakion).

At the Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday the baptismal verse from
Galatians: As many as have been baptizedl into Christ have put on Christ
(Gal 3:27) replaces the Thrice-holy Hymn thus indicating the
resurrectional character of the celebration, and the fact that Lazarus
Saturday was once among the few great baptismal days in the Orthodox
Church Year. Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead,
Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-expected Messiah-King of
Israel. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, he
entered Jenrsalem, the City of the King, riding on the colt of an ass
(Zech 9:9; Jn 12:12). The crowds greeted him with brancfies in their
hands and called out to him with shouts of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is
he who comes in the name of the Lord! The Son of David! The King of
Israel! Because of this glorification by the people, the priests and
scribes were finally driven "to destroy him, to put him to death" (Lk
19:47; Jn 11:53, 12:10).

The feast of Christ's triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, is
one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. The services of this
Sunday follow directly from those of Lazarus Saturday. The church
building continues to be Vested in resurrectional splendor, filled with
hymns which continually repeat the Hosanna offered to Christ as the
Messiah-King who comes in the name of God the Father for the salvation
of the world.

The main troparion of Palm Sunday is the same one sung on Lazarus
Saturday. It is sung at all of the services, and is used at the Divine
Liturgy as the third antiphon which follows the other special psalm
verses which are sung as the liturgical antiphons in the place of those
normally used. The second troparion of the feast, as well as the
kontakion and the other verses and hymns, all continue to glorilfy
Christ s triumphal manifestation "six days before the Passover" when he
will give himself at the Supper and on the Cross for the life of the

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together. Let us all
take up Thy cross and say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
Lord. Hosanna in the highest! (First Verse of Vespers).

When we were buried with Thee in baptism, 0 Christ God, we were made
worthy of eternal life by Thy resurrection. Now we praise Thee and sing:
Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the
Lord! (Second Troparion).

Sitting on Thy throne in heaven, and carried on a foal on earth, 0
Christ God, accept the praise of angels and the songs of children who
sing: BIessed is he who comes to recall Adam! (Kontakion).

At the vigil of the feast of Palm Sunday the prophecies of the Old
Testament about the Messiah-King are read together with the Cospel
accounts of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. At Matins branches are
blessed which the people carry throughout the celebration as the sign of
their own glorification of Jesus as Saviour and King. These branches are
usually palms, or, in the Slavic churches, pussy willows which came to
be customary because of their availability and their early blossoming in
the springtime.

As the people carry their branches and sing their songs to the Lord on
Palm Sunday, they are judged together with the Jerusalem crowd. For it
was the very same voices which cried Hosanna to Christ, which, a few
days later, cried Crucify him! Thus in the liturgy of the Church the
lives of men continue to be judged as they hail Christ with the
"branches of victory" and enter together with him into the days of his
"voluntary passion."

nick cobb

Apr 5, 2001, 9:15:20 PM4/5/01
Lazarus Saturday
By the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

"Great Lent is completed and comes to an end with two bright,
festal days, or rather, a two-in-one. two-day feast. This is Lazarus
Saturday, recalling Christ's raising of his dead friend Lazarus,
recalling Palm Sunday, when we celebrate Christ's triumphal
entrance into Jerusalem six days before he was betrayed to suffer
and die on the cross. In these two bright days, the Church reveals
to us the authentic meaning of Christ's voluntary sacrifice and
saving death before we once again become witnesses of Christ's

Christ was far from Jerusalem when Lazarus died, and it was not
until four days later that he arrived in Bethany and met Lazarus'
sisters. Martha and Mary, and his weeping and grieving friends. The
gospel of St. John recounts this meeting in detail, beginning with his
conversation with Martha and Mary. Both of them tell Christ, 'Lord, if
you had been here, my brother would not have died...' (Jn 11:21,
32). And Christ answers: 'Your brother will rise again' (Jn 11:23).
But regardless of this answer, when He saw the weeping of the
sisters and their friends, He himself 'was deeply moved in spirit and
troubled...' (Jn 11:33) Approaching the grave, He himself wept, and
those around said, 'see how he loved him!' (Jn 11:36). Christ
ordered that the stone lying against the grave be taken away. And
when they had removed the stone, 'He cried with a loud voice,
'Lazarus, come forth!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet
bound with bandages...' (Jn 11:43-44).

What is the meaning of this event which the Church celebrates so
brightly, so joyfully, so victoriously on Lazarus Saturday? How can
we reconcile Christ's sadness and tears with his power to raise the
dead? Through its entire celebration, the Church replies that Christ
weeps because, in seeing the death of his friend, He sees also
death's victory over the whole world; He sees that death, which God
did not create, has usurped the throne and now rules over the
world, poisoning life, turning everything into a meaningless stream
of days flowing mercilessly towards the abyss. Then comes this
command, 'Lazarus, come forth!' Here is the miracle of love
triumphant over death, a summons announcing Christ's declaration
of war on death, a vow that death itself will be destroyed and put to
death. And in order to destroy death and its darkness, Christ
himself, and this means God himself, love itself, life itself, descends
into the grave to encounter death face to face in order to annihilate
it and give us the eternal life God created us to possess..."

Taken from, "Celebration of Faith" Sermons, Vol. 2 "The Church
Year" by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, 1994.

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