Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
– John 11: 38-44
After Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leaders wanted to put him to death. (John 12: 10-11) In order to escape this persecution, Lazarus fled to the island of Cyprus where he lived for another 30 years in the city of Larnaca. It was said that Saint Lazarus never smiled. Everything he saw in his four days in the underworld gave him a solemn outlook on life.
Accounts tell that Lazarus broke his serious demeanor only once after his resurrection, and that was when he saw someone steal an earthen pot, smiling he said “a piece of soil steals a piece of soil.”
During his life Lazarus remained a close friend of the Mother of Christ, the Theotokos. She even visited him in Cyprus. it was during this trip that a storm blew her ship off course and she ended by the Athos peninsula of Greece, the modern Mount Athos. St. Lazarus died for the second and last time in Larnaca and was buried in a marble tomb inscribed with the words “the four day Lazarus and friend of Christ.” Above the tomb a small church was built in his honor. The current church was built in the year 890 AD by Emperor Leo the VI who brought most of the saint’s relics to Constantinople and had another church built there in the his honor. St. Lazarus head can still be venerated in his church in Larnaca. The rest of his relics were lost in the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks.
“Come forth.” See, I am standing by you. I am your Lord. You are the work of my hands. Why have you not known me, because in the beginning I myself formed Adam from the earth and gave him breath? Open your mouth yourself so that I may give you breath. Stand on your feet and receive strength for yourself. For I am the strength of the whole creation. Stretch out your hands, and I shall give them strength. For I am the straight staff. I command the foul odor to depart from you. For I am the sweet odor of the trees of paradise. Behold, the prophecy of Isaiah the prophet will be fulfilled in you, namely, “I shall open your tombs, and I shall bring you forth.”
– St. Athanasius, Homily on the Resurrection of Lazarus¹
While St. Lazarus may have died, his memory was preserved by the people of Larnaca. The presence of his relics and his history fill the people with a sense of pride. Children’s nursery rhymes were written in his honor and the people continue to visit his church on his feast day, singning carols and celebrating his name. St. Lazarus, though he lived so many years ago, remains forever woven into the traditions and culture of the people of Larnaca and the rest of Cyprus. Because of places like the church of St. Lazarus, the Holy Land doesn’t end in Israel. It extends further into the Mediterranean, spreading Christ throughout the world today, just as the apostles did 2,000 years ago. May our holy Father Lazarus bless us and protect us always.
The Feast of Saint Lazarus is always celebrated on the day before Palm Sunday.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
“O Christ our God, before Your Passion, You raised Lazarus from the dead to confirm the common Resurrection for all. Therefore, we carry the symbols of victory as did the youths, and we cry out to You, the victor over death, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
1. AJSL American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1895–1941.
Video produced by Efstratios Papageorgiou
Written by Mia Pearson