Lazarus Saturday

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion,
You did confirm the universal Resurrection, O Christ God!
Like the children with the palms of victory,
We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death;
Hosanna in the Highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!

Lazarus Saturday always falls the day before Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Church. That is both because the miracle of the raising of Lazarus happened shortly before His entrance into Jerusalem, and because it prefigured the general resurrection, and showed Christ’s power over death. Lazarus Saturday is one of the more traditional days to have baptisms of adult catechumens – both for the obvious reason that through Baptism we die and are resurrected in Christ – but for the more mundane reason that those who wait until Holy Saturday cannot fully participate in either the Holy Week liturgies, not in the sacrament of Holy Unction, on Wednesday.

I don’t remember what all goes on in the service; it may involve singing the troparion quoted at the beginning of this post again and again, possibly a procession, and pancakes and palm cross making. There’s also something about blessing willow branches. I don’t know why.

From the OCA website:

Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time in the entire Church Year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is celebrated on another day. At the liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind even before his own suffering and death.

At the Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday the baptismal verse from Galatians: As many as have been baptizedl into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:27) replaces the Thrice-holy Hymn thus indicating the resurrectional character of the celebration, and the fact that Lazarus Saturday was once among the few great baptismal days in the Orthodox Church Year. Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-expected Messiah-King of Israel. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, he entered Jenrsalem, the City of the King, riding on the colt of an ass (Zech 9:9; Jn 12:12). The crowds greeted him with brancfies in their hands and called out to him with shouts of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The Son of David! The King of Israel! Because of this glorification by the people, the priests and scribes were finally driven “to destroy him, to put him to death” (Lk 19:47; Jn 11:53, 12:10).

The feast of Christ’s triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, is one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. The services of this Sunday follow directly from those of Lazarus Saturday. The church building continues to be Vested in resurrectional splendor, filled with hymns which continually repeat the Hosanna offered to Christ as the Messiah-King who comes in the name of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

The main troparion of Palm Sunday is the same one sung on Lazarus Saturday. It is sung at all of the services, and is used at the Divine Liturgy as the third antiphon which follows the other special psalm verses which are sung as the liturgical antiphons in the place of those normally used. The second troparion of the feast, as well as the kontakion and the other verses and hymns, all continue to glorilfy Christ s triumphal manifestation “six days before the Passover” when he will give himself at the Supper and on the Cross for the life of the world.

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together. Let us all take up Thy cross and say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! (First Verse of Vespers).

hen we were buried with Thee in baptism, 0 Christ God, we were made worthy of eternal life by Thy resurrection. Now we praise Thee and sing: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! (Second Troparion).

Sitting on Thy throne in heaven, and carried on a foal on earth, 0 Christ God, accept the praise of angels and the songs of children who sing: BIessed is he who comes to recall Adam! (Kontakion).

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