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The Feast of the Resurrection of Lazarus at the Holy Monastery of Martha and Mary in Bethany

On Saturday, April 27/14, 2023, a Divine Liturgy was officiated by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem in the Holy Monastery of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus in Bethany. Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were their Eminences, Metropolitan Isychios of Capitolias, and Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina.

The chanting was delivered by Mr Eustathios Tsoumanis and Monk Joseph from Mount Athos, as the service was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Dimitrios Angelosopoulos and the Consul Mrs Anna Mantika, many local faithful and some pilgrims.

Before Holy Communion, His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“O Lord Thy voice destroyed the dominion of hell, and the word of Thy power raised from the tomb him that had been four days dead; and Lazarus became the saving first-fruits of the regeneration of the world” (Friday Vespers, stichera of the Saint), the hymnographer of the Church proclaims.

Beloved brethren in Christ,

Reverend Christians and pilgrims

The grace of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our God and Saviour Christ, has gathered us all in this town of Bethany, where Lazarus was born, and in this place where Lazarus’ sister Martha met Jesus, to celebrate the raising from the dead of the holy, righteous friend of Christ, Lazarus, who was four days dead.

According to the true testimony of Saint John the Evangelist, Martha said to Jesus: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11,21). “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11,25-26).

In interpreting Christ’s words, Saint Augustine says: “The one who believes in Christ will die due to the death of the flesh, but will never die due to the life of the spirit and immortality and resurrection”. Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “The one that believes in Him [Christ], will have endless life in the ages to come, full of beatitude and incorruption”.

According to the hymnographer of the Church, Christ, along with His disciples, went from the place beyond the River Jordan to Bethany, where His friend Lazarus had died, to certify the abstract energy and power of His divinity. “As true God Thou hast known of the falling asleep of Lazarus and hast announced it beforehand to Thy disciples, giving them proof, O Master, of the infinite power of Thy divinity” (Mattins, Ode 6, Troparion 4), the hymnographer exclaims. Moreover, to confirm before His Passion, the general resurrection. “Giving us before Thy Passion an assurance of the general resurrection, Thou hast raised Lazarus from the dead” (Apolytikion), the hymnographer exclaims again.

Because the redeeming Passion of Christ on the Cross was approaching, He shook the power of the death through the resurrection of Lazarus who had been four days dead. He also foretold His three-day burial and His resurrection.

So, we cannot but wonder; What does the “general resurrection” mean? The general resurrection is the resurrection of our Saviour Christ. The resurrection of the God-man Christ refers to the human flesh that He received from the pure flesh of the Theotokos Mary through the Holy Spirit. In other words, the general resurrection of Christ means the freedom of all men from the corruption of sin.

It is noteworthy that the “freedom of all men from corruption” should not be interpreted morally or metaphysically, but as a true fact, given that man’s death is an undeniable truth.

Through the loud voice of Christ “Lazarus come forth!” (John 11,43), the life-giving power and the mission of the Son of Man are declared, as He assured the faithful, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5,24).

This transition from death to life was declared by the resurrection of Lazarus, who, according to Saint Andrew of Crete, “became the first fruits of the regeneration”, that is, of Christ’s resurrection.

Today, my dearly beloved, being in Bethany and foretasting the General Resurrection of our Saviour Christ, the Victor over death, let us say along with the hymnographer; By the prayers of the Most Pure Theotokos and the intercessions of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, grant us O Lord to see Your Passion on the Cross and Your glorious Resurrection, O friend of man. Many happy returns, and a Happy Easter. Amen”.

A procession around the Monastery followed before the end of the service. Then the elderly Abbess Eupraxia hosted a modest reception in the rectory, with the Mayor of the Municipality of Bethany as the guest of honour.

The procession to the tomb of Lazarus followed, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Capitolias, where the Gospel narrative according to Saint John on the resurrection of Lazarus was read. The feast concluded with the return to the Patriarchate Headquarters.

From Secretariat-General

Source: Patriarchate of Jerusalem