Monday, February 25, 2013


What a full icon!  Christ on the left with His apostles lifts His hand, His fingers forming the Divine Name of Jesus and asserting at the same time the Three Persons in the One God, orders Lazarus to come out of his tomb.  Martha and Mary kneel at His feet in supplication.  The on-lopers are amazed and the two poor fellows struggle with the weight of the stone and the implications of this miracle.  Even the mountains, representing created nature rise up as if to see more clearly this work of God-made-man.  Interestingly only Christ and Lazarus have haloes perhaps because having gone into the realm of the dead and now returned to the land of the mortal his eyes have been truly opened to see Christ as He is.

In John's account, the only Gospel to do so, we have the interesting contrast between Mary' tears, she who had chosen the 'better part', and Martha's faith:

 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,  and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”  When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.  When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply movedin spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
 Jesus wept.
 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”
 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 Martha's confession parallels Peter's.  The faith of both sisters draws from Christ His mercy and compassion and so He raises Lazarus from the dead, an act that draws down the wrath of the Sanhedrin and precipitates their conspiracy to kill Him.

Entombed as we are within sin and death, incapable of saving ourselves, wrapped up in our vices and passions we need the saving action of God to free us.  We cannot by our own power free ourselves.  The Word and Image of the Father has descended to us and become Incarnate in the womb of the Virgin and ministered to us as man, fully human yet fully Divine.  He has endured the cross for us, suffered death for us and entered the tomb for us that we might be unbound and become free.  Not just free but through Him we have communion with the Triune God and eternal Life with Him.  We are Lazarus and He commands us to come forth from all that binds us in sin!

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