Lazarus Satuday & Palm Sunday

LAZARUS SATURDAY

On this day, Christ went to Bethany, where He resurrected Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha (John 11). Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Christ had raised from the dead. There they made a supper for Him. Martha served, Lazarus attended near Christ at the table, and Mary sat at His feet.

PALM SUNDAY

During the matins prayer of Palm Sunday, the church makes a procession of twelve stations around the Church, similar to the one made during the Feast of the Cross. At each station, a gospel reading is read in front of the icon commemorating a saint, group of saints, or an event. After the gospel is read, a special response is said for that saint or event with the Palm Sunday Tune (Hosanna tune).

St. John's gospel tells us that Jesus headed for Jerusalem the day after the supper, where He made a public entry (John 12:13). Thus, the following day was a Sunday, the 10th Nisan. This is the day all Israelites select a lamb from their herd, the paschal lamb, and keep it until the evening of the 14th day of the month for slaughtering (Ex. 12:1-36).

Paschal lambs were selected and preserved for few days in the holy city. Similarly, God's lamb bearing the sin of the world remained inside the walls of Jerusalem for few days, traveling between the temple and Bethany. When it was due time for the Redemption to be accomplished, Jesus entered Jerusalem with great celebrations, as prophesied by Zechariah in the book of Zechariah. "Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion, and proclaim daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, the King cometh unto thee: He is just and triumphal, riding upon an ass and upon a colt." (Zech. 9:9).

Jesus left His native land of Galilee to minister in Judea and Berea on the way to Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus Christ was received in Jerusalem with a parade of onlookers, men women and children cheering joyfully with palms in hand, spreading their garments under His feet. Jesus entered Jerusalem with a modest procession, riding upon a colt. Although Jesus entered unknown and unlike a worldly king, He inspired awe and fear (spiritual kingdom) and ". all the city was moved, saying: 'Who is this'?" (Matt 21:10), thus declaring their acceptance of His kingdom. Children welcomed Him with joy, proclaiming His kingdom as they cried "Hosanna to the son of David (Mat. 21:15)." Concurrently, those whose hearts were hardened said unto Him, "Hearest thou what they say?" Jesus responded by saying to them, and also to us, "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings He had perfected praise" (Matthew 21:16).

With the entrance of the King into our hearts and our lives, we are welcoming a new life in Christ. The Church commemorates the entrance of our Lord into our inward Jerusalem to establish His Kingdom in us and gather all to Himself. During the Matins prayer, there is a procession inside the sanctuary, indicating that the procession of the redeemed believers starts by God's plan of Christ's self-oblation. The procession then proceeds through the nave, before the icons of all the apostles, martyrs and saints.

During the Liturgy, each of the four gospels are read, each one facing a different direction as the fulfillment of the prophesy that the gospel will be preached throughout the world (N, S, E, W). The four gospels clearly announce the beginning of Christ's Kingdom and delineate the conditions to accept His Kingdom. (Matt 21:1-17); (Mark 11:1-11); (Luke 9:29-48) and (John 12:12-19).

But this joy is neither complete nor consistent. The scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees envied Him and the love that the people had for Him. As the children cheered the Messiah these Jewish leaders questioned Him by saying, "By what authority are You doing these things?" (Matthew 21:23) Even the people themselves would soon turn against Him just a few days later. Now they were shouting "Hosanna!" but in a few days, they would be shrieking, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" (Luke 23:21) Such a great paradox and irony is one of the main themes throughout the entire week.

On Saturday, Nisan ninth of the Year 5534 of the creation, our Lord Jesus participated in the supper prepared at the house of Simon the Leper, in a village called Bethany (house of sorrow). This is the village of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. As told in the gospel of St. John, the supper occurred six days before the Passover. "During the supper, Mary took a very costly ointment of spikenard and anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair" (John 12:12). Six days before the Passover was a Sabbath day.

At the conclusion of the day, Jesus entered the temple and cast out sin and hypocrisy. Jesus makes it clear that He rejects those who sell the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He also shows the extent of relentless judgment for those who reject the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Having established His reign, Jesus can say "My house" while claiming His zeal for its cleanliness.

This is the day of extreme happiness and the beginning of the week of sorrows. We enter the church with palm leaves and hymns of joy; we leave draped in sorrow and mourning. As St. Andrew, bishop of Crete said, 'Let us run to accompany Him as He hastens toward His passion, and imitate those who met Him then, not by covering His path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before Him by being humble and trying to live as He would wish."

GENERAL FUNERAL SERVICE

As discussed earlier, a general funeral service is held on Palm Sunday following the Liturgy. This general service is conducted at the end of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Because no incense is raised for the departed during Holy Week and none of the departed are prayed upon in the church, the Church provides for this general funeral service for the souls that depart during these holy days. This service is held by saying special prayers on water before the altar in the choir of deacons. Following the funeral prayers, the priest blesses the people with water for this purpose.

We have heard that the resurrection has overcome death. Consequently, the first words of the whole week are (Ez. 37:1-14). This passage assures us that the crucified life in Jesus Christ raises to life those who were dead through sin, though they had become "very dry bones". Hence, we have reason to rejoice. The Church addresses these words to our hearts and minds: "I shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live. I will cover you with flesh and skin, and put breath in you and you shall live" (Ez. 37:6). This theme is reiterated throughout the Bible. In a reading from I Corinthians, we hear that "Christ is risen from the dead and become the 'first fruits' of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20).

The Gospel according to St. John 5:19-29 also speaks of our life in Christ, reminding us "the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. and they that hear shall live.And shall come forth, they that have done well, unto the resurrection of life" (John 5:28,29).

The Church warns us to start Holy Week with no evil in our hearts, so that we may benefit from these holy days. Brothers, this is the way towards the Cross: "Do not despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance."(Rom. 2:4). "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18).

Morning Hours

NINTH HOUR - cleansing of the temple.

ELEVENTH HOUR - the Lord will not hear their cries (Micah) the special power of fasting

Evening Hours:

FIRST HOUR - lamenting, destruction of Jerusalem, vengeance of God (Zephaniah); We echo the Greeks request who asked Philip, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus"

THIRD HOUR - distress, desolation (Zephaniah); "Who do you say that I am?"

SIXTH HOUR - weep, mourn, sackcloth, fig trees dried up (Joel) Christ prophesied about His suffering and crucifixion.

NINTH HOUR - weeping will not remove the reproach (Micah) Christ again asks what the people say about Him as they travel to Caesarea Philippi.

ELEVENTH HOUR - prophesies focus on the wrath of God on His enemies (Nahum 1:2-8).

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