Lazarus Saturday is held on the Saturday following the Great Lent. It is commonly referred to as “Palm Saturday” since it precedes the day of Palm Sunday. According to tradition, it was celebrated on the eve of the fortieth day of the Great Lent Fast. There was a clear practice of separating Passion Week from the Holy Forty Days. In all cases, this is the day in which the Lord Christ raised Lazarus from the dead after his body had been corrupted in the tomb for four days. Importantly, an event of this caliber reveals and confirms the Divinity of our Lord and His authoritative power over death.
The wonder of raising the dead is a great sign of God’s love to man, for death is a sign of sin. In the Gospel, it is mentioned that the Lord Christ raised three individuals from the dead: the first was Jarius’ daughter, the ruler of the synagogues (Luke 8); the second was of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7); and finally, Lazarus (John 11). The daughter of Jarius was 12 years old, symbolizing the sin in its beginnings, still in the heart and thoughts of man. The widow’s son was a young man who was being carried in the streets. His death symbolizes the sin as it spreads to the people and it no longer remains in the heart of one person. As for Lazarus, he was a grown man who died, and whose body even decayed in the tomb. Lazarus’ death is a symbol of the sin when it has reached its final stages, as it matures and becomes complete. In fact, it has become a deeply rooted practice – a nature of filth and corruption, just as in a decaying body. What is awesome is that the Lord managed to defeat sin in all its stages. This in itself gives us hope and a strong will to repent. Lazarus Saturday is a day that pushes us to repent, because the battle against sin was completed. No matter how much a person finds himself in the pit of evil, Christ is able to raise him and give him a new life, fitting to the adopted sons of God.
The Rite of this day is prayed with the annual tune. It is a day of celebration, although it is not considered a feast. Thus, it is prayed in the annual tune instead of the Lenten tune as the rest of the days of the Lent. In the Prime Raising of Incense, prayers are carried out normally, and in the Verses of Cymbals, the verse specific to Lazarus Saturday is chanted before the verse of St. George the martyr. Then, Evnoti nainan and the prophecies fitting for this day are read without any prostrations (metanoia). Following the Gospel, the Prime Gospel Response for Lazarus Saturday is chanted. In the conclusion of the Prayers, Concluding Canon of Lazarus Saturday is chanted.
In the Divine Liturgy, the Third and Sixth Hours are prayed, followed by the hymn `Alleulia fa pepi. The Divine Liturgy is prayed in the usual manner, with the exception of the Gospel Response, which is specific to Lazarus Saturday. Also, after the Prayer of Reconciliation, the Adam Espasmos of this day is chanted. The Annual Fraction is prayed on this day, and during communion the deacons chant Psalm 150. This is immediately followed by the hymn, Lazaroc . The Divine Liturgy is then concluded with the Annual Concluding Canon, or in the same manner as in the Prime Prayers.
May the blessings of this day be with us all. Amen.
Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p. 355 – 357. Translated from Arabic by Mina Barsoum, edited by Alexander A-Malek and Ragy Sharkawy.