Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lazarus Saturday

This past Saturday the Orthodox Christians of the world celebrated the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. St. Lazarus was by the time of his resurrection four days dead, and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church teaches that from the time of his raising until his death thirty years later, he only laughed once, and never smiled again, so terrible was the experience of Hades even for that short time.

I had only heard this story of St. Lazarus's solemnity a few years ago, and it has troubled me ever since. It must have been a very profound weight on him to have to wait thirty more years before he was reunited with Christ in Heaven. I think fearfully about the dreadful calculus; a week more in Hades versus thirty more years on Earth before St. Lazarus could begin his heavenly worship.

And so I spoke to Official Wife Tina, and she said, "How do you know how time passes in Hades? Who can say whether Lazarus experienced those four days as four days? Wouldn't any time in Hades be terrible? What do you mean, Lazarus was in Hades? You mean he was in Hell? I've never been told this before..."

And then we talked for a good long while about what exactly happened to all the dead of the Old Testament, and who, if anyone, among the saints of the Old Testament did not experience Hades (Enoch and Elijah, and that's about it, IIRC).

Even blessed Saint Simeon, who beheld Christ in the flesh as an infant, was condemned to suffer Hades. Even Saints Joachim and Anna, and Saint Joseph, and the Prophet Elisha, and King David the Psalmist, and all of the holy people of God prior to the Crucifixion, the descent and harrowing of Hades, and the Resurrection.

And so, sitting and typing, I tremble to think that God has graced me, who is first in sin, to be free from Hades, when even these great people who suffered so in the flesh had suffered in ways incomprehensible to me, through the sin of Adam and Eve. And I wonder that Christ forbore for four days to raise St. Lazarus from the dead and how it must have pained him so that the people would see and believe. For here was hope made manifest; not the promise of the Resurrection, but the Resurrection in the flesh. And yet the people did not believe.

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

1 comment:

  1. 'The Pit' would be a better way to refer to it. Literally, a deep dark hole such as one might be buried in. Hades brings to mind a whole bunch of Greek myths.