Greek Orthodox Lazarus Saturday Religious Service Overview
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Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian Church takes place after Great Lent. Each day of the seven day Holy Week has an important meaning and focus. Lazarus Saturday celebrates the miracle of Jesus Christ when he raised Lazarus from the dead. Here’s what you should know about Lazarus Saturday Service in the Orthodox Christian Church, which usually takes place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday:
About Lazarus Saturday Service
The Saturday before the Holy Week is when the Orthodox Church commemorates a major feast of the year. This is to celebrate the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after laying in the tomb for four days. This feast occurs at the end of the forty days of lent and is combined with the celebration of Palm Sunday. On Lazarus Saturday there is a morning service known as a Matins service. Matins service is followed by Divine Liturgy. Divine Liturgy is the act of gathering together as one community in order to worship, sing, pray, and hear God’s word.
Biblical Story of Lazarus
The story of Lazarus forms the backbone of this special day, and there is a church the Bible, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus in the Gospel of John. Lazarus had become ill and his sisters Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus. The message was “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” Jesus then replied with “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the son of God may be glorified through it.”
Two days later, Jesus would begin his journey to Bethany, where Lazarus and his sisters lived. When he arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Martha met Jesus and told him that if he had been there, her brother would not have died. Jesus told her that Lazarus would in fact rise again. He asked her if she believed that everyone who lives and believes in him would never die and Martha said she did. She was then sent to bring her sister Mary to meet Jesus. Mary was in tears as were those who came with her to console her.
Jesus was moved by this and asked to be taken to the tomb of Lazarus. At the tomb, Jesus also wept for Lazarus. Jesus asked for the stone to be moved and said a prayer to his Father and commanded Lazarus to come out. Lazarus then walked out of the tomb. This miracle is a reassurance to Jesus’ disciples that though He suffers and dies, He is Lord and Victor over death. The resurrection of Lazarus is a prophecy in the form of action and is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection eight days later.
Scriptures and Hymns of Lazarus Saturday Service
During the Lazarus Saturday Service some of the scripture readings may include: Hebrews 12:28-13:8 and John 11:1-45. These will be read during the Divine Liturgy. Hymns that may be sung include: Apolytikion, Kontakion, Troparion of Saturday of St. Lazarus, and Exaposteilaria. Here are the words to these hymns:
Apolytikion: First Tone
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion, You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with palms of victory, We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death; Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
Kontakion: Second Tone
Christ – the Joy, the Truth, and the Light of All, the Life of the World and the Resurrection – has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all.
Troparion of Saturday of St. Lazarus, Orthros. Tone 1
O Christ God, when Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead, before Thy Passion, thou didst confirm the universal resurrection. Wherefore, we, like babes, carry the insignia of triumph and victory, and cry to Thee, O vanquisher of death, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Exaposteilaria, Saturday of St. Lazarus. Tone 3
By Your word, O Word of God, Lazarus now leaps out of death, having returned to this life. Therefore the peoples honor You with their branches, O Mighty One; for You shall destroy Hades utterly by Your own death.
By means of Lazarus has Christ already plundered you, O death. Where is your victory, O Hades? For the lament of Bethany is handed over now to you. Let us all wave against it our branches of victory.
This post was written by Greek Boston