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Revision as of 16:50, January 17, 2011Saint Lazarus or Lazarus, the Four Days Dead was a friend and one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ and first Bishop of Kittium, Cyprus. He was resurrected by Jesus shortly before His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. The Church commemorates his feast on Lazarus Saturday, the first day of Holy Week and, conversely, the eve of Palm Sunday.
The Lazarene Miracle
According to the Gospel of John, Lazarus lived in the town of Bethany (approximately two miles outside of Jerusalem in the present day West Bank) with his two sisters, Mary and Martha. On His way to Jerusalem before the Passover, the sisters had sent word to Jesus and His Apostles that Lazarus was ill. The Lord tarried where He was, later perceiving Lazarus' death. When He arrived, Lazarus had already been in his tomb for four days. When Martha reproached Our Lord for not arriving sooner, Christ assured her that Lazarus would rise. Martha mistook this for the universal resurrection on Judgment Day, to which He replied, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26, KJV). In the presence of the mourners, the Lord ordered the stone rolled away from Lazarus' tomb and bade him to come forth. Lazarus did so, still in his grave wrappings. Jesus then called for the crowd to remove the wrappings and free him. St. John goes on to explain that even more Jews were convinced of Jesus' divinity. This event struck fear into the hearts of the Jewish leaders, so much so that they even considered putting Lazarus to death (John 12:9-11). The religious hierarchy of the Jews at this time was dominated by Sadducees, who denied the resurrection. The Raising of Lazarus represents a testimony to the resurrection - both Christ's and the universal resurrection, as well as Our Lord as victor over death.
According to the V. Rev. Fr. Thomas Hopko, the Lazarene Miracle is the "climactic high point" of St. John's Gospel and the proof of Christ's divinity. It is also the act which serves as the catalyst of the events leading to Our Lord's arrest and Passion.1
According to Scripture and the tradition of the Cypriot church, Lazarus was compelled to seek refuge away from Jerusalem to avoid the anger of the high priests and the pharisees, who wanted to kill him, ...the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed in Jesus (John 12:10-11). Many christians too ... were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about. Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch ...; just like Stephen, Lazarus would have had to leave Judea to seek refuge in another country.
This location was Kittium (today Kittium is called Larnaca) of Cyprus. When Apostle Paul and Apostle Barnabas travelled to Cyprus, they ordained Lazarus as the first Bishop of Kitium. That is why all episcopal thrones in Larnaca have the icon of St. Lazarus instead of Christ, which is the standard custom of the church.
Little more is known about Lazarus after Our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension except that during his thirty year he never smiled or joked except for one occasion. One day, he saw someone stealing a clay pot and he laughed saying, "the clay steals the clay".
Another famous tradition connected to Lazarus is the discovery of Mount Athos in 52AD. Lazarus was very close to the Virgin Mary and he was very grieved that he could not return to Jerusalem to visit her (he was still in fear of the Jews). The Theotokos learned of his sorrow and sent him a letter to comfort him. She asked that he might send a ship to her that she might visit him in Cyprus. With great joy, Lazarus sent a ship to the Holy Lands to bring the Virgin Mary and John, the beloved disciple to Cyprus for a visit. On their journey, a great storm blew them off course and carried them to the shores of Ephesus and then the ship to the shores of Athos, Greece. Unaware that divine providence had brought her to this area, the Virgin Mary completely taken by the beauty of the area, prayed to her son that this could be her garden devoted to prayer to "fight the good fight of faith". Having converted, blessed and established a new christian community from the local idolaters they set sail for Cyprus and met with Lazarus.
The first tomb of Lazarus in Bethany remains as a site for pilgrims to this very day. The second tomb, on the island of Cyprus, was found in Kittium sometime in A.D. 890, with his relics inside and bearing the inscription "Lazarus, the Friend of Christ."
Subsequently a church dedicated to Saint Lazarus has been built on this site.