The Lazarus Saturday is a very joyful day for Orthodox Christians which shows us the triumphal miracle of Christ. It falls on the same day our dear Abbess Euphrosinia celebrates her birthday - April 24th.
We read this extraordinary story of Christ’s miracle in the Gospel of John 11:1-45. Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, got sick and passed away. His sisters sent a message to Christ to tell Him about what happened. Jesus decided to go back to Bethany - the village where Lazarus lived.
When Jesus and His disciples came to the village they found out that Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha came out to meet Christ and said:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21-22)
Martha had such a strong faith and believed that her brother will be resurrected just like everyone else on the last day. But the Lord said to her:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
Christ saw Martha, Mary and other people cry because of the death of Lazarus, so He was moved and even wept at Lazarus’ grave. Then He ordered to take away the stone blocking the entrance, looked up in the sky and prayed:
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42)
Then He called, “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus came out indeed, all wrapped in linen.
This miracle was performed eight days before Christ’s suffering on the cross in order to reassure the disciples. Through this miracle, they were to understand that even though Christ will die, He will also rise. This way the raising of Lazarus is a prophecy in the form of a miracle, as it foreshadows the death and resurrection of Christ.
It assures us, the followers of Christ, that each one of us will rise just like Lazarus because we believe that Christ is the resurrection and the life.
First, we lay a beautiful icon of the Saturday of Lazarus at the center of the church. The icon shows Christ calling Lazarus to come out of the tomb, Lazarus, wrapped in linen and the sisters Mary and Martha bowing before Jesus.
On the eve of the feast we celebrate festive Vespers. On April 24th we celebrate the Divine Liturgy and sing beautiful hymns like this one:
“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.”
(Troparion of Saturday of Lazarus)
At the Divine Liturgy we replace the Thrice-Holy Hymn with a verse from Galatians:
"As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27)
This indicates the resurrectional character of the feast, and the fact that Lazarus Saturday used to be one of the few baptismal days in the Orthodox Church Year.
Abbess Euphrosinia became Abbess of Saint Elisabeth Convent in 2005. Before that she was one of the sisters of mercy. Right now she is known as a very kind, loving and humble person. The sisters respect her for her deep love for Christ and people around. The Saint Elisabeth Convent couldn’t have asked for a better Abbess!
This year she is celebrating her 51st birthday on the day of the feast of the Raising of Lazarus. The sisters, brothers and parishioners of our Convent wish her the most wonderful, grace-filled birthday and many years!
Christian denominations, including many Western Orthodox Churches, prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ (Christmas) on the 25th of December. However, in Belarus Christmas is celebrated on 7th January.