"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

Lazarus Saturday

Sermon on Lazarus Saturday by Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985)
of Eastern America and New York
It often happens that a child does a bad thing, and his father properly punishes him.  But when he sees the child crying in sorrow, parental love takes hold and the father seeks to console the punished child.
A terrible sentence was imposed upon our fallen ancestors living in the Garden of Eden.  The Lord, after their terrible sin, when they betrayed Him and heeded the tempter, His enemy, said: “thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken,” that is “unto dust thou shalt return.”  In this way the Lord sentenced our ancestors and their progeny to death, for before this, mankind was not to taste death.  Having no sin, man could not before then die and would have lived forever, but after that, he became the prey of death.  But our Lord knows that death is terrifying for man, that nothing terrifies him more.  That is why, in order to ease the very thought of death, in order to alleviate this fear, the Lord performed His wondrous deeds of which we read in the Holy Gospel.

In particular, He performed the miracle we remember today, the greatest of His miracles—the Raising of Lazarus.

The Lord had earlier told the Apostles: “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  He said that the moment would come when those in the grave would hear the voice of the Son of God and would emerge alive.  And yet death, which destroys the body of man, horrifies us.  And the Lord, consoling us, encouraging us, made an example of Lazarus, who, hearing the voice of the Son of God, came out of his tomb.  He spoke, His Omnipotent Voice shook the depths of hell, and Lazarus, whose body had already begun to decay, came out of the tomb alive, unharmed and in good health.
Today’s holiday is for this reason especially close to our hearts, especially joyful.  Today we celebrate our future resurrection.  In seven more days the Holiday of Holidays will arrive, the Triumph of All Triumphs, when we will celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, “raising us with Him,” as the Church sings.  And so to illustrate how this will occur, how the dead will rise from their graves to the sound of the voice of the Son of God, the Lord raised the dead Lazarus.  That this is so is declared by the troparion which will be sung today and tomorrow: “By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion, You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God!”—that is, it confirmed that there will be resurrection for all.
Our souls are filled with special joy on this day, a brilliant joy, because death ceases to terrify us.  How unfortunate are the godless!  Of course, we know that they are in error, that man is not annihilated after death.  But these poor folks think that death comes and everything comes to an end, the person is dead, his body is killed and there is no question of any life.  All their talk about how their leaders live in eternity in the hearts of their followers are simply nonsense!

The human soul does not seek this, it seeks only an escape from the fear of death.  The Lord grants it, for after all He had done for us, it turns out that death is not disappearance into the abyss of non-existence, but only a temporary slumber, but longer than earthly sleep.  But sleep nonetheless, for with His Almighty Voice, He will wake us all at a time known only to Him so that we pass into eternity.

How bright and happy is this day!  The human soul cannot but tremble with elation because, again, we are celebrating our universal resurrection!  Remember this, o human soul, and thank your Lord for His great mercy to you.

What an amazing miracle this was! The Gospels tell us that our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, resurrected three people: first, the daughter of Jairus, the head of the synagogue, second, a young man, the son of the widow of Nain, and, finally, Lazarus. It is interesting to note the upward progression from one miracle to the next. The first resurrection was of a young girl, the daughter of Jairus, who had just died at the time. The Lord went to their house and brought her back to life. The young man of Nain was already being taken to the cemetery, the funeral procession having just gone out of the gates of town with his corpse. It was there that death which had already taken place met Life Who happened to be passing by, and Life overcame death. As for Lazarus, the Gospel tells us clearly that he had been dead for four days, and his body had already started to decay. That is why this miracle is so striking. Yet, the enemies of Christ denying His miracles try to explain them all away with natural causes. They claim that Christ knew some sort of secret science of healing, or that Lazarus had not actually died, but was just in a deep state of unconsciousness. They say that since Christ was very knowledgeable and had learned many things, He could also bring a person in a deep sleep back to life. However, they simply could not come to terms with what happened to Lazarus, for what kind of sleep could this be, when Lazarus had already begun to decompose when the Lord resurrected him?! 
We should remember, dear brothers and sisters, that for good reason the Church sings in the troparion these words: “In confirming the common Resurrection, O Christ God, Thou didst raise up Lazarus from the dead”. What does this mean? It means ‘Christ God, by raising Lazarus You attest to all that a general resurrection from the dead will take place’. The Lord Jesus Christ performed this astonishing miracle to show all of us that there WILL be a general resurrection, and that, in due time, as the Lord sees fit (we do not know when this will be), we will all die at some point and then come back to life in the general resurrection. 
The Lord is concerned for His faithful. He knows how difficult death is for people and how we perceive it as such a threat to our existence. Therefore, He shows us in actual deed what the resurrection of the dead will be like. He Himself said that those in the tombs will emerge at the sound of the voice of the Son of God, and, indeed, in this case, He spoke, and at His voice the one who had been dead and partially decomposed came forth healthy, whole, and unharmed. 
Let us remember that the Lord performed this miracle to assure us that there will be a general resurrection. Nowadays many people have lost faith and no longer believe in the truth of the miracles described in the Gospels. You can see for yourselves what is happening around us. Yet, this miracle should put the soul of a believer completely at rest, for the Lord clearly said, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn. 11:25). This is certainly very reassuring. When the Lord was speaking with Martha before the raising of Lazarus and said, “Your brother will rise again”, she said, “I know that he will rise again in the general resurrection at the last day when we will all be resurrected”. She answered correctly, for she had heard His teaching before. And the Lord said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn. 11:25). Therefore, knowing what Christ promised us in the New Testament and knowing about His miracles, let this be our comfort and firm support of our faith and relief in sorrow when we are seeing off our departed ones. As the Lord raised Lazarus, He will raise us also, in due time, as He sees fit. Amen. 
St. Metropolitan Philaret of New York, Sermons, Vol. II, pp. 190-192 

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