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Monday, December 17, 2007

December 17 : Feast of Saint Lazarus of Bethany

Lazarus: Symbol of Christian Awakening

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The Righteous St Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary (Magdalene), lived in the village of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. During His earthly life the Lord Jesus Christ often visited the house of Lazarus, whom He much loved and called His friend (John 11:3,11), and when Lazarus had died and lain four days already in the grave, the Lord raised him from the dead (John 11:1-44). (The Church remembers St Lazarus on the Saturday of the Sixth Week of Great Lent, "Lazarus Saturday.") Many of the Jews, when they heard about this, came to Bethany. Being persuaded of the reality of this most remarkable wonder, they became followers of Christ. Because of this the High Priests also wanted to kill Lazarus. Righteous Lazarus is mentioned in the Holy Gospel once more: when the Lord had come again to Bethany six days before the Passover, Lazarus was also there (John 12:1-2, 12:9-11). After his raising, St Lazarus lived another thirty years as a bishop on the island of Cyprus, where he spread Christianity and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. The holy relics of St Lazarus were discovered in Kiteia. They were within a marble coffin, upon which was inscribed: "Lazarus of the Four-Days, the friend of Christ." The Byzantine emperor Leo the Wise (886-911) gave orders to transfer the relics of St Lazarus to Constantinople in the year 898 and place them within the church of the Righteous Lazarus.

The story of Lazarus is a preview of Jesus' approaching death and resurrection. Lazarus stands for the fallen humanity about to be raised from the death of sin to life in God through Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. The illness which Jesus allows Lazarus to undergo is the symbol of our false self with all its weakness, ignorance, and pride, together with all the damage lying in the unconscious from earliest childhood to the present moment. To raise Lazarus from this illness to life in the Spirit is the most profound meaning of the event. Lazarus' resurrection manifests the full significance of Christ's resurrection, which restores sinful humanity, not only to the divine life, but to its super-abounding fullness.