On the Saturday before Holy Week, the Orthodox Church commemorates a major feast of the year, the miracle of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when he raised Lazarus from the dead after he had lain in the grave four days. Here, at the end of Great Lent and the forty days of fasting and penitence, the Church combines this celebration with that of Palm Sunday. In triumph and joy the Church bears witness to the power of Christ over death and exalts Him as King before entering the most solemn week of the year, one that leads the faithful in remembrance of His suffering and death and concludes with the great and glorious Feast of Pascha.

Icon of the Feast

The icon of the Saturday of Lazarus shows Christ calling His friend to come out of the tomb. Lazarus is coming forth from the tomb, still bound in the strips of burial cloth. His sisters, Mary and Martha are bowing before Christ, expressing both their sorrow in the death of their brother, but also their faith in Christ as the Messiah and Son of God. Next to them is someone who has followed the request of our Lord and removed the stone from the door of the tomb.

Standing with Christ are his disciples who are witnesses of this miracle, a true manifestation of the power of God that would bring them assurance during the Passion of our Lord.

In the center of the icon is a person who represents the crowd who also witnessed the miracle. Some believed, but others went and told the Pharisees and chief priests who continued their machinations to bring about the arrest of Christ and His death. The walled city of Jerusalem, where Christ will arrive in triumph the following day, is depicted in the background.

Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Saturday of Lazarus

The Saturday of Lazarus is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which is preceded by the Matins service. On Friday before the feast, the Vespers is done either in conjunction with the Presanctified Liturgy or if this is not held, according to the order of the Triodion. The day and commemoration receives its name from the miracle of Christ recorded in the Gospel. Both this feast and Palm Sunday are joyous festivals of the Church, and thus bright colors are used for vestments and the Holy Table.

Scripture readings for the Saturday of Lazarus are: At the Orthros (Matins): No reading of the Gospel. At the Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 12:28-13:8; John 11:1-45.

At the Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the baptismal verse from Galatians (“As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” Galatians 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.

Source – goarch.org

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