HOLY AND GREAT WEEK: The Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


HOLY AND GREAT WEEK: The Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday.

The Saturday of Lazarus, along with Palm Sunday, occupies a special position between Lent and Holy and Great Week. Following the forty days of penitence which have just ended and immediately before the days of darkness and mourning which are to follow in the weeks of the Passion, there come two days of joy and Triumph on which the Church keeps festival. The Saturday before Palm Sunday celebrates the raising of Lazarus at Bethany (John 11:1-46). This miracle is performed by Christ AS A REASSURANCE TO HIS DISCIPLES BEFORE THE COMING PASSION: they are to understand that, though He suffers and dies, yet He is Lord and Victor over death. The resurrection of Lazarus is a prophecy in the form of an action. It foreshadows Christ’s 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.’

As the liturgical texts emphasize, the miracle at Bethany reveals the TWO NATURES of Christ the God-man. Christ asks where Lazarus is laid and weeps for him, and so He shows THE FULLNESS OF HIS MANHOOD, 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 and Great Week, and above all on Holy and Great Friday. On the Cross, we see a genuinely human agony, both physical and mental, but we see more than this: WE SEE NOT ONLY SUFFERING MAN BUT SUFFERING GOD.

Palm Sunday. "Blessed is He that comes…" This is the feast of Christ the King — welcomed by the children at His Entry into Jerusalem and to be welcomed likewise by each one of us into our own heart. "Blessed is He that comes…" –that comes not so much out of the past as "OUT OF THE FUTURE: for on Palm Sunday we welcome not only the Lord, Who Entered Jerusalem long ago, riding on a donkey BUT THE LORD WHO COMES AGAIN IN POWER AND GREAT GLORY, AS King of the Future Age.

Jesus sat upon it and entered Jerusalem, as had been foretold in Prophet Zachariah’s prophecy: "Do not fear, O daughter of Zion: behold thy king cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9; Matthew 21:5). The Prophet shows by these words that this king in the prophecy IS THE ONLY TRUE KING OF Zion. "Your king," he says, "DOES NOT AROUSE FEAR IN THOSE WHO SEE HIM. NOR IS HE AN OPPRESSOR OR AN EVILDOER ACCOMPANIED BY SHIELD-BEARERS AND SPEARMEN, TRAILING BEHIND HIM A HOST OF FOOT SOLDIERS AND CAVALRY, PASSING HIS LIFE IN GREED FOR GAIN, DEMANDING TAXES AND TRIBUTES, AND UNPLEASANT AND HARMFUL ABLORS AND SERVICES. By contrast, His banner is HUMILITY, POVERTY, AND LOWLINESS, AND He ENTERS MOUNTED UPON AN ASS, WITHOUT ANY HUMAN PRETENSIONS AT ALL. He IS THE ONLY RIGHTEOUS King Who RIGHTEOUSLY SAVES. He IS MEEK, AND MEEKNESS IS HIS DISTINCTIVE WORK: "The Lord said of Himself, "LEARN OF ME; FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART" (Matthew 11:29).

So the King Who had raised Lazarus from the dead entered Jerusalem sitting upon an ass. Everyone, children, men, and old people, immediately spread their garments in the way. They took palm branches, which are SYMBOLS OF VICTORY, and went to meet Him as the Life-Giver and Victor over death. They fell at His feet and escorted Him in procession, singing together, not just outside but also inside the precincts of the Temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest" (Matthew 21:9). "Hosanna" is a song of praise directed to God, which means, "SAVE US." The additional words "IN THE HIGHEST" show that He is not only praised on earth, nor only by men, BUT ALSO BY THE HEAVENLY ANGELS ON HIGH.

The people not only sang His praises and called Him God, but they subsequently opposed the Scribes and Pharisees’ evil purpose against God and their murderous allegations. For the latter were mad enough to say to Him, "This man is not of God, and since he doeth many miracles, if we let him thus alone and do not put him to death, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation" (cf. John 9:16; 11:47-48). But what did the people say? "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh" (Mark 11:9-10). By saying, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord", they showed that He was from God the Father and that He CAME IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. As the Lord said of Himself, "I CAME IN THE NAME OF MY FATHER" (cf. John 5:43) and I proceedeth forth and came from God" (John 8:42). On the other hand, by saying, "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh", they showed that this was the kingdom in which, according to prophecy, the Gentiles too, and indeed the Romans, were to believe. For this king was not just Israel’s hope, but also the expectation of the Gentiles, according to Jacob’s prophecy: "Binding his foal unto the vine", where "foal" refers to the Jewish people who were subject to Him, "and his ass’s colt unto the branch of the vine" (Genesis 49:11). The branch of the vine is the Lord’s Disciples, for the Lord said to them, "I AM THE VINE, YOU ARE THE BRANCHES" (John 15:5). By the branch, the Lord binds to Himself His "ass’s cold", namely the NEW ISRAEL OF THE GENTILES, who become SONS OF ABRAHAM BY GRACE.

Let us all, young and old, rulers and subjects, be childlike in innocence, that God may empower us to make a public show of the trophies, and carry aloft the symbols of victory, not just of victory over the evil passions, but OVER VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE ENEMIES, AND MAY WE FIND THE GRACE OF THE WORD TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED (cf. Hebrews 4:16). The young colt which the Lord deigned to ride for our sake PREFIGURED, ALTHOUGH IT WAS ONLY ONE the Gentiles’ obedience to Him and we, governors and governed alike, are all Gentiles come from them.

In Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female, nor Greek, nor Jew, but all, according to the holy Apostle, ARE ONE (Galatians 3:28). In the same way, in Him there is neither ruler nor subject, but by His grace, WE ARE ALL ONE IN FAITH IN Him, and belong TO ONE BODY, His Church, WHOSE HEAD HE IS. By the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, we have all drunk OF THE ONE SPIRIT AND HAVE ALL RECEIVED ONE BAPTISM. We all have one hope and one God, Who IS ABOVE ALL, and THROUGH ALL, AND IN US ALL (Ephesians 4:6). So let us LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Let us bear with one another, seeing THAT WE ARE MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER. As the Lord Himself said, the sign that we are His disciples IS AGAPE (LOVE). When He departed from this world, the fatherly inheritance He left us WAS LOVE, and the last prayer He gave us when He Ascended to His Father was about LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER (John 13:33-35).

May we all attain by the grace and love towards mankind of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom belong all glory, honor, and worship, together with His Father without beginning and the Life-Creating Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. [Source: Saint Gregory Palamas. The Homilies, The Lenten Triodion)

"Glory Be To GOD
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostmos

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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