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Today was the last day of Lent, and tomorrow we start Holy Week with Lazarus Saturday. The Church begins Holy week, a.k.a. Holy Pascha, with resurrection and ends with resurrection. Although, the commemoration of raising Lazarus from the dead is actually on another day, if you didn’t know that. The importance of Lazarus Saturday is taken in context with the other stories that the Bible mentions where Christ raised someone from the dead. There are 3 stories that we know of; for all we know, Christ could have raised others. But this is a significant miracle, so it’s hard to imagine that He raised others, but it wasn’t recorded. The three raised from the dead are the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain, and then Lazarus. The Church Fathers speak about how these people were at a certain “level” of death. The daughter of Jairus had just died. The son of the widow of Nain for some time but not long enough because the Bible recounts how Christ raised him from the dead while they were on their way to bury him, compared to the daughter. The latter was still lying in her bed in the home. As for Lazarus, he had been in the tomb for four days. The Bible tells us that they said to Christ there would be a stench; this was when formaldehyde probably wasn’t easily accessible, and decay would begin right away unless you lived in Ancient Egypt. The Church Fathers liken these “levels” of death to levels of how deep we can be in sin. Christ shows us that no matter how deep our sin is, Christ can raise us.
The above picture is from St. Reweis in Memphis, TN. It cracks me up when I see it because the man has his hand on his nose and mouth, which exemplifies the stench of decay. Yet Christ still healed. And Christ still heals. How often do we judge others because of their sin as if it’s this “stench,” and we warn Christ, “there’s a stench!” How many times do we allow ourselves to ostracize others because of how they look or because of their background? We shame others for their sins in our self-righteousness yet forget that we sin every single day, “for no one is pure even if his life be a single day.” Maybe you were “a sinner” once but by God’s grace have repented; perhaps you lived in that stench once. But does the fact that you have repented give you the right to judge others? If we do this, we bring judgment on ourselves more as Christ tells us the story of the unmerciful servant.
The crux of the matter is synergy. To be removed from the stench, we need synergy. This is the beauty of Orthodoxy; we go to neither extremes of saying that God’s grace will save you while you stand like a bobblehead or the other extreme where the load is on you. Synergy means “working together,” and what exactly is working together? My will and God’s grace! Your part is to surrender your will every day and in every moment of your life. So tomorrow, as we celebrate Lazarus Saturday, surrender to God and tell Him, I am tired of living in this stench and wish to be unbound just as Lazarus was unbound from the cloth of burial.