My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she
fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here,
my brother would not have died.’
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who
came weeping, He GROANED IN THE SPIRIT AND WAS
And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him,
‘Lord, come and see.’
Then the Jews said ‘SEE HOW HE LOVED HIM…" (St. John 11:32-36).
According to our Holy Tradition, the Saturday before Palms Sunday we celebrate the raising of Lazarus at Bethany. "The miracle is performed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as reassurance to His Disciples before the coming Passion: they are to understand that, though He suffers and dies, yet He is Lord and Victory over death. It foreshadows His own Resurrection eight days later, and at the same time, IT ANTICIPATES THE RESURRECTION OF ALL THE RIGHTEOUS ON THE Last Day. Lazarus is ‘THE SAVING FIRST-FRUITS OF THE REGENERATION OF THE WORLD."
Our Lord Jesus Christ reveals His two natures, Divine and human. He shows THE FULLNESS OF HIS HUMANITY, "involving as it does human ignorance AND GENUINE GRIEF for a beloved friend. Then, disclosing THE FULLNESS OF His Divine power. Christ raises Lazarus from the dead, even though his corpse has already begun to decompose and stink. This DOUBLE FULLNESS of the Lord’s DIVINITY and His HUMANITY is to be kept in view throughout Holy Week, and above all on Great Friday. On the Cross, we see a genuine human agony, both PHYSICAL and MENTAL, but we see more than this: WE SEE NOT ONLY SUFFERING MAN but SUFFERING GOD."
According to Saint Theophylact, "The Lord "GROANED in the Spirit" at the appearance of the passion of sorrow in Himself, meaning that by the Spirit He rebuked the turmoil of His human emotions and held them in check. Saint Cyril of Alexandria in his commentary on the Gospel of Saint John — followed closely by Saint Theophylact — explains this phrase as follows: "By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ in a certain manner rebukes His own flesh; unable to endure this action of the Divine nature to which it was united, the flesh trembled in agitation." He acted thus so AS NOT TO BREAK DOWN IN TEARS when He asks the question, ‘Where have ye laid him?’ Because Jesus WAS GRIEVED BY THE DEATH OF HIS FRIEND — for He WAS TRULY HUMAN, and to confirm this He PERMITTED HIS HUMAN NATURE TO ACT ACCORDINGLY — He chastises the flesh and rebukes it by the power of the Holy Spirit. The flesh, unable to endure the rebuke, "WAS TROUBLED", meaning that it trembled and was agitated at being compelled TO RESTRAIN ITS GRIEF. The Lord PERMITTED HIS HUMAN NATURE TO SUFFER THUS, PARTLY TO CONFIRM THAT HE WAS MAN IN REALITY, NOT MERELY IN APPEARANCE, AND PARTLY TO TEACH US TO AVOID THE EXTREMES OF CALLOUSNESS ON THE ONE HAND, AND OF UNBRIDLED GRIEF ON THE OTHER. THE MAN WHO NEVER FEELS COMPASSION OR WEEPS IS BRUTISH; THE MAN WHO CANNOT CONTROL HIS ANGUISH AND TEARS IS EFFEMINATE. Sharing our flesh and blood [see Hebrews 2:14], Christ EXPERIENCED OUR NATURAL, HUMAN AFFECTIONS, BUT TAUGHT US THEIR PROPER LIMITS."
"Jesus wept." The image of Jesus weeping touches the very core of my heart. Just thinking of this scene brings tears to my eyes. I find it extraordinary for Christ shedding tears, human tears of course, but nevertheless tears flowing from the eyes of the Godman, the Savior, the Son of God. How can anyone not feel profoundly and share in His sorrow of His friend’s death, even though He knew that soon after He was to raise him from death?
As Orthodox Christians, we do not simply talk or read a narrative regarding our Savior, but we and He are one. We are united with Him and we should feel what He feels and we should think the way He thinks. In the words of Saint Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVE, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME" (Galatians 2:20). Don’t all of you recall what occurs when we receive Holy Communion, the very Body and Blood of Christ, we are UNITED WITH HIM AND WE BECOME ONE WITH HIM AND WITH ONE ANOTHER?
"Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will live again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE MAY DIE, HE SHALL LIVE. AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, WHO IS TO COME INTO THE WORLD" (St. John 11:23-27). Martha misunderstood Jesus’ words because of her limited understanding. Jesus begins her by telling her, "your brother shall rise again." He then affirms His authority and power: ‘I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE."
We need to be Christians with deep and sincere feelings for Him and for one another. We need, as Christians, to be sensitive and compassionate. We need to be Christians with a heart and with genuine sympathy for our fellow man. We need to be people who share the sorrow as well as the joy of others. We need to be Christians who are not afraid to express emotion openly and not to be rigid and cold. Someone said once to be compassionate means to place yourself in the shoes of the one suffering or in need, and feel his pain, feel his suffering, feel his fears and his loneliness. This is what makes us human! To be a "philanthropos" is to love your fellow man. It is not mechanically giving someone a few dollars and sending him on his way. That is not charity or true philanthropy. What is important is not the monetary help, but instead GIVING OF ONESELF!
In our contemporary society, everything has become impersonal and frigid. We are afraid to become attached to someone who needs our love. We tend to show more emotion and concern for animals than for human beings. We act out of the internet and we send our monetary help to all kinds of charities without a personal commitment of any kind. Yes, it is important to assist someone financially and to support animals in distress, but it is altogether a different experience when we volunteer our services to the local soup kitchen and to personally dish out food to the hungry. By doing so, you witness personally the tragic circumstances of a fellow human being. You SEE THEM AS THEY ARE, you look into their eyes, you see their plight and hopelessness, you feel their agony and perhaps even despair, you sense their gratitude to you for helping them. It is a totally different experience and, at the end of the day, you feel good deep down in your soul for touching someone and giving him or her hope. As Our Lord Jesus Christ, to feel the sorrow and the pain and even to weep as Jesus did for his good friend Lazarus.
Kalo Pascha! Kali Anastasi! A Blessed Pascha! A Blessed Resurrection!
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George