Giving us before Thy passion an assurance of the general Resurrection, Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead O Christ Our God. Therefore, we like the children carry tokens of victory and cry to Thee the conqueror of death, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. (Troparia of Lazarus Saturday)
As a youth, I was often in need of assurance. Movements of my soul toward God were quickly followed by moments of intense doubt: “Did the Creator of the universe really perform a work in me or was it simply something I ate?” Assurance of genuine salvation then came by frequently answering a call to the altar, kneeling in a bare church, and praying somehow that this time salvation would really sink in deep. While this was a great beginning, I sensed there was more to my relationship with Christ. And when I discovered the Church’s sacramental life, I also found the key to unlocking my much needed assurance.
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people... (Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion, Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1928)
The Lord was assuring me of salvation every time I received him in communion, and this compelled me to come more often to His table to taste and see that the Lord is good. It continues to reassure me that I am not left merely to my own feeble prayers or personal resources.
Now as we embark together on the dark and treacherous journey of Holy Week, Our Lord knows again that we need assurance of His favour and goodness toward us and especially of His power to bring us through it. These forty days in the desert of Great Lent have most likely drudged up things from our life that we would rather soon forget. And like the disciples who witnessed our Lord’s passion and ran for cover behind locked doors, we too may be looking for an easy way out of the mess we have made of our lives. Lazarus is our assurance.
All hope was lost when our Lord arrived on the scene in Bethany. The deep sorrow of Martha is expressed so well in her use of the past subjunctive, contrary to fact statement, “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” Because he was not here and Lazarus did die… four days ago, in fact. Most would end the story here. What more is there to hope for from a man whose body had already begun to decompose? Science might tell us that the odor gives clear and irrefutable evidence of his death. All natural means of bringing the beloved friend back to life had been exhausted, and the only Person with the power to heal Him had delayed His coming past the time of known deliverance. And yet, the Lord of glory does indeed raise him from the dead, even him who had begun to stink.
And what of us who remain dead in sin, rotting with a deathly odor about us? A para-liturgical hymn written for this day reminds us in Thee O Jesus, we are made alive. And this feast is a yearly assurance that nothing can separate us from the Love of God, the same Resurrected Lord who constantly beckons us to His life-giving table of communion. Blessed feast & Kali Anastasi! as we await the Feast of All Feasts next Sunday!
Rejoice, rejoice, O Bethany!
On this day God came to thee,
And in Him the dead are made alive,
As it is right for He is the Life.
When Martha went to receive Him,
Grieving loudly with bitter tears,
She poured out the sorrow of her heart to Him
With great sadness, wailing her lament.
She at once cried out unto Him:
“My most compassionate Lord, my Lord,
At the great loss of my brother Lazarus
My heart is broken, help me.”
Jesus said to her, “Cease your weeping,
Cease your grieving and sad lament;
For your brother, My most beloved friend, Lazarus,
Very soon will live again.”
Then He, the faithful Redeemer,
Made His way unto the tomb,
Where he cried unto him who was buried four days,
Calling him forth, saying “Lazarus, arise.”
Come with haste, ye two sisters,
And behold a wondrous thing,
For your brother from the tomb has returned to life.
To the beloved Redeemer now give thanks.
To Thee, O Lord of creation,
We kneel down in reverence profound,
For all we who are dead in sin,
In Thee, O Jesus, are made alive.