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Saturday, April 12, 2014
Saturday of Lazarus
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Today in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church is commemorated one of their most important feastdays in the year: Lazarus Saturday. This feast commemorates the great miracle of our Lord when he raised Lazarus from the dead after Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days.

As Lent for the Eastern Catholics began a few days earlier than for Roman Catholics, Lazarus Saturday marks the end of Great Lent for them.  Holy Week is a separate week of penance and fasting for them outside of the Great Lent of forty days of fasting and penitence.

On Lazarus Saturday,  the Church bears witness to the power of Christ over death and exalts Him as King before entering the most solemn week of the year, one that leads the faithful in remembrance of His suffering and death and concludes with the great and glorious Feast of Easter.

During Friday vespers the reading of Genesis (which began on the first day of Great Lent) is concluded with the description of the death, burial and mourning of Jacob (Genesis 49:33-50:26) and on Friday night, at compline, a Canon on the Raising of Lazarus by Saint Andrew of Crete is sung; this is a rare full canon, having all nine canticles.

The scripture readings and hymns for this day focus on the raising of Lazarus as a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Christ and a prefiguring of the General Resurrection. The Gospel narrative is interpreted in the hymns as illustrating the two natures of Christ: his humanity in asking, "Where have ye laid him?" (John 11:34), and his divinity by commanding Lazarus to come forth from the dead (John 11:43). A number of the hymns, written in the first or second person, relate Lazarus' death, entombment and burial bonds symbolically to the individual's sinful state. Many of the resurrectional hymns of the normal Sunday service are sung while prayers for the departed, prescribed on Sundays, are permitted. During the divine liturgy, the baptismal hymn, "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Romans 6:3) replaces the Trisagion indicating that this had been a day on which baptisms were performed [2] and in some churches nowadays adult converts are still baptized on this day.

Lazarus Saturday is the day when, traditionally, hermits would leave their retreats in the wilderness to return to the monastery for the Holy Week services. Although the forty days of Great Lent end on Lazarus Friday, this day is still observed as a fast day; however, the fast is mitigated to allow consumption of caviar, eggs being a symbol of the resurrection and prominent on Pascha, and fish eggs being a shadow thereof show the raising of Lazarus as a foreshadowing of Christ's Resurrection, as elucidated in the propers of the day.

The antiquity of this commemoration is demonstrated by the homilies of St. John Chrysostom (349 - 407), St Augustine of Hippo Regia (354 - 430), and others. In the 7th and 8th centuries, special hymns and canons for the feast were written by St. Andrew of Crete, St. Cosmas of Maium and St. John Damascene, which are still sung to this day.
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Lazarakia

One common tradition throughout Greece for the Saturday of Lazarus is the baking of Lazarakia. Lazarakia is a spice bread used to remember the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It has many sweet spices in it and is Lenten, meaning it has no dairy or eggs in it. Lazarakia comes in the shape of a man (which is supposed to be Lazarus). There is a mouth and cloves for eyes. Unlike Tsoureki, Lazarakia is not brushed with egg or butter to give it a gloss finish (to not break the fast). One recipe can be found here. "If you don't make a Lazaro, you won't have your full of bread" (“Λάζαρο δεν πλάσεις, ψωμί δεν θα χορτάσεις”), is a saying among some Greeks. Lazarakia should look like the Lazarus in the icon of his resurrection, bound like a dead man with a shroud.

On the island of Kos girls who are engaged make a Lazaro the size of a small child, filled with countless goodies and embroidered almost like the coils of the wedding, to send to the groom. The "Lazaroudia" in many households are filled with ground walnuts, almonds, figs, raisins, honey, extra spices and children eat it hot.

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