THE CONQUEROR OF DEATH
- THE CONQUEROR OF DEATH
Homily for the Saturday of Lazarus
In today's troparion we heard the following words: "Thus we, too, cry out
to Thee, the Conqueror of death: hosannah in the highest, blessed is the
One who comes in the name of the Lord!" Today's holiday is truly great,
dear brethren! Just think of these words: "Conqueror of death!"
There were many conquerors in the history of mankind: there were talented
physicians who conquered many illnesses; there were famous military leaders
who conquered huge armies and entire countries. There are conquerors of
space, there are conquerors of distance, etc. But the world does not know a
single "conqueror of death" except for the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone
bears this distinction. Even the world of unbelievers is unable to propose
any other name. None of the most prominent people in the world have ever
pretended to such a distinction. Yet He is, has been and will be ? our Lord
and Saviour, the conqueror of death.
During His life on earth the Lord gave proof of this in three cases: the
resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, the resurrection of the son of the
widow of Nain, and now today ? the resurrection of Lazarus.
The death of the daughter of Jairus was a recent, fresh death. The girl
died while Christ and her father were on their way to her. Even Christ
called it "sleep," but other people laughed at Him, knowing that the girl
had died. But He made everyone leave the room, then took her by the hand
and said: "Maiden, arise!" And her spirit came back to her, she arose, and
He commanded that she be given food.
In the case of the son of the widow of Nain death had asserted its rights
more strongly: the deceased had already been placed on a bier, he not only
had been carried out of his house, but was being carried out through the
city gates. The Lord had to stop the bearers in order to approach the bier.
And only then He said: "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead youth sat
up and began speaking. And Christ gave him back to his mother.
And now there is Lazarus. In this case death's victory was final, it was
100% complete. Lazarus had already stayed in the tomb for four days. There
was great weeping, but no one had any hope whatsoever of his resurrection.
Even one of the deceased's sisters said to the Lord: "I know that he shall
arise again in the Resurrection on the last day." And even the Lord
Himself, seeing her weeping and all the others together with her, was
troubled in spirit and wept. Finally He said: "Take away the stone." At
this point the deceased's sister could no longer endure and cried out to
Him: "Lord, he is already malodorous, for he has been dead four days." But
still the stone was lifted from the cave where the dead man lay, and the
Lord cried out in a loud voice: "Lazarus! Come forth." And the dead man
came out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes. Jesus said to them:
"Loosen him and let him go."
But aside from physical death there is also spiritual death. It happens
thus: a sinful thought passes through our mind and incites in us a sinful
feeling, but the soul comes to its senses, cries out to the Lord in
repentance, and the Lord extends His hand as to the daughter of Jairus and
says: O soul, arise! And once again life goes on joyfully. But it may also
happen that we do not come to our senses in time, and sin enters our soul
more deeply, but even then, through the prayers of the Church, our soul can
still rouse itself, can repent, and the Lord will say to us as He did to
the son of the widow of Nain: O soul, I say unto thee ? arise! And our soul
will come alive again and will be granted salvation.
But what is to be done if sin enslaves our soul completely, covers it as
though with a huge burial stone, and turns into a passion which becomes
sinfully malodorous? as in the case of Lazarus? What do we do then? In this
case we have great need of confession, the sacrament which has been
established by the Lord Himself. Look at how it is reflected in the
resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus could not leave the burial cave by himself
? it was covered by a huge stone. He could not even walk properly, because
he was bound hand and foot by the grave-clothes. And at this point Christ
said to His disciples: loosen him. Applied to us this means that the Lord
commands clergymen, who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in the
sacrament of ordination, to absolve our sins which bind us hand and foot.
What joy for us! For death is not the cause, but only the result or
consequence of sin. And Christ is also the conqueror of sin, and together
with it ? of death itself. Let us triumphantly proclaim: hosannah in the
From "The One Thing Needful" by Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveevo
THE PASSION OF CHRIST
Why did Christ suffer?
What need was there for the passionless God to suffer in His flesh so
terribly from humanity? There was, brethren, no need for God to subject
Himself to such dishonor and such suffering on earth. His self-sacrifice is
entirely voluntary, ? He did not have to become incarnate, suffer and die.
However, in that case all of us, sinners and enemies of God, would have
become eternal captives of the devil and would have been eternally damned.
But in His mercy, and being unable to see mankind tormented by the devil,
the Lord came to free us from this slavery and eternal torment. And to free
us from the enemy's bonds, which we ourselves gladly accept, the Lord
became the most obedient servant of His Divine Father, to Whom we were ?
and still constantly are ? disobedient, and by means of His human body and
His human soul, by human effort supported by Divinity, He vanquished the
tempter ? the devil, into whose bondage we had given ourselves so easily
and continue even now to give ourselves through our sins. Furthermore, in
order to free us from the eternal torments of hell, to which, in all
justice, our eternal souls should have been subjected as captives of the
devil, He, the pre-eternal God, wished to endure our torments Himself by
means of His human nature. And so, as you can read and hear from the
Gospel, He did endure these torments for our sake. He endured all the
humiliation and all the cruelty of torture from people and from demons, in
order to pluck us out of hell, where we would have stayed in eternal
torment if it were not for our Saviour.
The cruelty of Christ's passion
"My God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Thus cried out the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for the
sins of the world and, consequently, for our sins too, dear brethren. My
God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me? ? He cried out in His human flesh,
which had frailties but no sins. But how could God the Father abandon His
only-begotten, His beloved Son, Whom He had sent into the world for the
salvation of the world? Divinity was inseparable from the human nature of
Jesus Christ. This abandonment meant that the human nature in Jesus Christ
was left to that terrible, mortal sorrow which He had experienced in the
garden of Gethsemane before being seized by the band of villains. Already
at that time He had been horrified and had begun to grieve, saying to His
disciples: "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye
here, and watch with me." Just think of how terrible was the physical
suffering and the grief of the all-just, all-loving and sensitive soul of
the Son of God, Who was tortured for the sins of mankind, the sins of Adam
and Eve and all their progeny, and ? therefore ? for our sins too, dear
St. John of Kronstadt
A choir of angels glorified the greatest hour,
The heavens melted in an all-consuming fire.
To God the Father He said: "Why didst Thou forsake Me?"
And to the Holy Virgin said: "O weep not, Mother?"
Mary the Magdalene shuddered and wept,
The beloved disciple was rigid as stone,
Yet no one did dare even throw a glance
At the Mother Who quietly stood alone.
- Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Natalia Shenilof