This weekend marks a two-day celebration of two important events: the raising of Lazarus and the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. I am looking forward to Lazarus Saturday this year as I want to see my son's reaction when he sees the icon of Lazarus displayed at the front of the church. You see, the story of Lazarus was the first Bible Story that I've seen him get REALLY excited about. We read it just a couple of weeks ago and he still talks about it. I told him that one day soon Fr.Dan would tell this same story in church and we would see the icon depicting the story there.
Lazarus Saturday: Hebrews 12:28-13:8 John 11:1-45
The story of the Raising of Lazarus is only found in the Book of John. The story tells of Jesus returning to Bethany a couple of days after he learns of Lazarus being ill. He tells the disciples ahead of time that Lazarus has fallen asleep and He must go to waken him. The disciples are confused as they believe Lazarus is only sleeping and should be left to rest. After arriving in Bethany, it is discovered that Lazarus has been dead in the tomb for four days. Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Asking that the stone be rolled away from the tomb, Jesus then commanded, "Lazarus, Come Out!" Lazarus walked out of the tomb!
This event is commemorated the Saturday before Palm Sunday the because of its actual occurrence just before the Lord's entry into Jerusalem and because the resurrection of Lazarus is a 'type" of the resurrection of Christ.
Palm Sunday: Philippians 4: 4-9 John 12: 1-18
Palms (and Pussy Willows in Russian tradition) are handed out after being blessed for the Palm Sunday service as symbolism for this important event. It was the custom of the Jewish people at the time of the original entry into Jerusalem to greet people of high rank with palm branches. The Jews who greeted Jesus believed Him he was the Messiah. Since Palm branches are unavailable in Russia, it became the custom use Pussy Willow on the Palm Sunday celebration as it is the first plant that blooms in spring.
While all the Gospels tell this story, we read from the Book of John which tells us about how the people, aware of Him approaching Jerusalem, went out to meet Jesus and welcomed Him with shouts of praise, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” On this Sunday, we worship Christ, holding our palms (or pussy willows) in a similar fashion.
The Lord is God and has appeared to us; let us keep the feast together. Come, and with great rejoicing let us magnify Christ with palms and branches, and let us cry aloud. Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord our Savior. ~ Orthros of Palm Sunday
"Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our soul, we beseech Thee in Thy love for man: Grant us also to behold the Holy Week of Thy Passion, that in it we may glorify Thy mighty acts and Thine ineffable dispensation for our sakes, singing with one mind: 'O Lord, glory to Thee."