|St. Lazarus Church, Larnaca, Cyprus|
That is, I thought I knew them well . . . .
Then, I became an Orthodox Christian, and began learning additional historical bits and pieces of the stories of well known Biblical persons.
Then, I went to Cyprus, and began to learn how very much I didn't know! The people of Cyprus seem to talk of St. Lazarus as if he was there just a few decades ago, and everyone's parents remember him. This is a level of intimacy with the Saints that seemed foreign to me.
Let me share with you what I learned about St. Lazarus in Cyprus:
If you know the Bible Story, you know that St. Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary. You know they were from Bethany. You know Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. And, you know that, after Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus raised him from the dead!
|An Icon telling the story of the life of St. Lazarus|
|Lazarus, Come Forth!|
But, if you only know the Bible Story, you're missing some important details. Not details that would contradict or disprove the story you know - quite the contrary - details that would enrich and reinforce your relationship with the story & with the Saint - and, most importantly - with God.
You see, after St. Lazarus was raised from the dead, his story didn't stop. If someone is raised from the dead - they keep living! It is strange that before this visit to Cyprus, I had never even given a second thought to what happened next.
When Jesus raises a person from the dead, what does that person do next? How does he do honor to the great miracle he has experienced, and more importantly to the Great God who raised him?
In the case of St. Lazarus, he became one of the first Bishops of Cyprus. He took the Gospel he had experienced first hand, and shared it with those who didn't know it. He lived in and served the city-kingdom of Kition (now known as Larnaca), on the southeastern coast of the Island of Cyprus. He served as a Bishop there for 30 years.
|The Iconostasis at the Church of St. Lazarus|
It is said that after he was raised from the dead, St. Lazarus never smiled or joked. He realized the very great importance of this life and of eternity and didn't deal with them lightly. Only one time did he break this practice: when he witnessed a thief stealing a piece of pottery, he made an ironic comment about (a person who, after all is descended from Adam who was made of) clay stealing clay.
|Inside the Church of St. Lazarus|
To this day, there is a Church dedicated to St. Lazarus in the City of Larnaca, where he served the people of Cyprus. It is built over his second tomb (imagine, having two tombs!). His relics were taken from the tomb at some point in history, but some of them were restored to the Church and can be venerated upstairs in the Nave. Despite its great historical and artistic treasures, this is not a museum, it is a Church in the middle of town, with parishioners and regular services.
|The Reliquary of St. Lazarus. His bones are inside the box under glass.|
|The Bones of St. Lazarus|
St. Lazarus' second tomb has one word carved on the side in Greek: Friend. What an awe inspiring title!
|The Second Tomb of St. Lazarus|
|Here you can see the inscription more clearly - the word "friend" in Greek.|
Here are some references if you'd like more information
Greek Orthodox Church information about the Saturday of Lazarus
Orthodoxwiki on St. Lazarus
Information for Tourists about St. Lazarus Church
The day before Palm Sunday is called "The Saturday of Lazarus." It is a special day to honor St. Lazarus, and the holy life he lived in service to God, and it is the beginning of Holy Week.
For us who are Orthodox Christians - the Saturday of Lazarus is today - April 4 - this year.
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