Saturday, April 4, 2015

Whatever Happened to St. Lazarus?

St. Lazarus Church, Larnaca, Cyprus
Like most American Christian children, I grew up reading the Bible. I learned the stories well, and loved them. I knew the characters by name, and new each of their stories, the same way secular children can name and tell you all about their favorite movie characters, or their favorite sports characters.

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.

This post was featured on:

Stone Cottage Adventures
Stone Cottage Adventures - Tuesday with a Twist

This is being shared on
Snickerdoodle Sunday
The Art of Homemaking Monday
Modest Monday
Mix it Up Monday
Tuesdays with a Twist
Mom 2 Mom Monday
Teaching What is Good
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday 
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Wake Up Wednesday
This is How We Roll Thursday 
Think Tank Thursday 
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Traffic Jam Weekend
Encouraging Hearts & Homes


  1. Thank you for sharing this story!

  2. This is such a beautiful story. I wish you a wonderful holy week and blessed Pascha.

    1. Thank you! Blessed Holy Week & Pascha to you, too!

  3. I had never thought about that. It was very interesting. I am glad to know more details of his life.
    Thanks for telling us.

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comments! So glad you visited : )

  4. A lovely post Anna mou. Kalo Pascha. On the Saturday of Lazarus, it is a tradition to make Lenten cookies, called Lazarakia.

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by to visit! Given the time difference, I imagine it's already Pascha where you are, so "Christos Anesti!" : )

      Thank you so much for the link to Lazarakia! I've seen recipes for them in cookbooks, but never seen a picture of them - and it's very hard to make a shaped cookie without knowing what your finished product should look like! No one in our community in America makes them that I know of - but I'd love to try to sometime - maybe next year : )

  5. I wasn't familiar with St. Lazarus and am happy to have learned so much about him. Thanks for sharing at the This Is How We Roll Link Party on Organized 31.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! St. Lazarus is a favorite in our family, so I'm delighted to "introduce" you! Thanks so much for hosting!

  6. What a fascinating post! I'd like to feature it today at Tuesdays with a Twist! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    1. Thank you SO much for featuring my post! I'm truly honored. St. Lazarus is very special to our family, so it's a pleasure to share our joy!

  7. I love how you've made us think about how someone who is raised to new life by the Messiah would go on to live their (new) life! Thank you so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on!

    1. Thank you so much for your faithful visits & comments, Tina. I love your blog, and so appreciate you hosting : )

  8. This is fascinating! I think we have a tendency to close the pages of our Bible and to forget that for most of the men and women featured, life went on and they lived their faith in all kinds of circumstances. I love that after all Lazarus experienced, his life was distilled down to "friend."

    1. Thank you so much for visiting, Michele, and for your kind words : ) Our Greek Orthodox Pascha (Easter) is a bit later this year than the year I wrote this, this year Pascha is on the 28th, so we'll be celebrating St. Lazarus NEXT Saturday - the 20th. St. Lazarus certainly did lead an inspiring life!


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