17 Dec Saint Lazarus
Today is the feast day of Saint Lazarus. Ora pro nobis.
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, a the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” (1)
– John 11:1-44
Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, the man who was buried twice, left Bethany because “the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well (as Jesus), since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.” [John 12:10-11] According to ancient Cypriot tradition he went to Kition, Larnaca, Cyprus, where later he was met by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey through Cyprus, and was ordained by them as the first Bishop of Kition.
Lazarus – The first Bishop of Kition (Larnaca)
This tradition is supported not only by archaeological evidence, but also by the credible religious historian, Arethas, Archbishop of Cesarea, who related the discovery of Larzarus' tomb and the transport of his bones to Constantinople in the late ninth century.
The church we see today, dating back to the early tenth century is in fact the third church built upon this site, which was once the location of the ancient necropolis where Lazarus had been buried. The foundations of one of the previous churches may still be seen beneath the current St Lazarus in Lazarus' tomb.
The bones of the saint were first discovered in 890 A.D. in his tomb in the small church that existed at that time, the second built on the site. These were found in a marble sarcophagus which was inscribed with the following:
“Lazarus four days dead and friend of Christ”.
The then Emperor of Byzantium, Leo VI the Wise, according to custom, carried the bones to Constantinople, and in exchange for them, he sent money and technicians to build the church that we see today.
The transport of the holy relics from Kition (Larnaka) to Constantinople was related by Arethas, bishop of Caesarea thus giving historical credibility not only to the event, but also to the fact that the bones of Lazarus in Kition was a well-know fact of the time.
There is another worthy tradition to mention about Mary and Martha coming to Cyprus to visit St. Lazarus. According to this tradition, Lazarus sent a ship to the Holy Land to bring Mary, Martha, as well as John the apostle and some other disciples to Cyprus because he missed them and wanted to see them. (2)
Image: Resurrection of Lazarus. Private coll., Athens. 12-13 c. (3)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff