Saturday, March 27, 2010

Greek Traditions for the Saturday of St. Lazarus

Icon of Christ raising St. Lazarus from the dead (

For hymns and readings from the Saturday of St. Lazarus, see:

For St. John Chrysostom's Commentary on the raising of St. Lazarus, from the Gospel of St. John, see:,, and

For more on the tradition of St. Lazarus and Cyprus, see:

Though this is a departure from the normal content of this blog, I feel the need to reiterate my respect for many of the traditions from the various Orthodox countries. In the hearts of many simple Orthodox villagers, the light of Christ shines through, and leaves an imprint on every aspect of daily life. They pass through Great Lent in fasting, prayer and repentance to approach the Passion of Christ, and they celebrate spiritually and physically in His triumph over death: most especially on Great and Holy Pascha, but also on the Saturday when Christ raises his beloved friend St. Lazarus, the Four-days-dead, from the tomb, along with Palm Sunday.

In Cyprus (where St. Lazarus was a Bishop and where is second tomb is) and Greece, the celebration of the Saturday of St. Lazarus (following the Divine Liturgy) takes the form of chanting and singing of religious hymns and folk songs and the baking of the traditional "Lazarakia" breads in honor of St. Lazarus, among many others things.

"In the old days the children would go door to door to sing special songs for the Lazarus resurrection. This tradition also comes from the gospel saying:

"While Jesus was entering into Jerusalem the Jewish children were singing 'Osannah blessed is the one who come in the name of the Lord. Osannah to the Son of God'."

"In old times the following custom existed in Larnaca [Cyprus]: on St. Lazarus day, which is on Saturday, on the eve of Palm Sunday, various children, holding branches of palters and headed by a boy representing Lazarus, been decorated with red poppies and yellow wild daisies bearing in Cyprus the name of "Lazarus", went round the houses of the parish, where the priests, on one hand, chanted hymns about the raising of the Saint, and the children, on the other hand, sang the "son of Lazarus" (popular song in various versions). On the same day, in the year of the church, in the presence of all the parishioners, took place a representation of the raising of Lazarus. Both the priests and the children participated in the ceremony."

The following is one of the many beautiful Greek folk songs that relates the story of the raising of St. Lazarus (along with my amateur translation):

Σήμερον έρχεται ο Χριστός,
ο επουράνιος Θεός,
εν τη πόλει Βιθανία.
Μάρθα κλαίει και η Μαρία
Λάζαρο τον αδερφό τους,
τον γλυκό και καρδιακό τους.
Τον μοιρολογούν και λέουν,
τον μοιρολογούν και κλαίουν
τρεις ημέρες τον θρηνούσαν
και τον εμοιρολογούσαν.
Την ημέρα την τετάρτη
κίνησε ο Χριστός για να `ρτει
και εβγήκεν η Μαρία
έξω από τη Βιθανία
και εμπρός του γόνυ κλει
και τους πόδας του φιλεί.
<<Αν εδώ ήσουν, Χριστέ μου,
δεν θ` απέθνησκε ο αδελφός μου
Πλην! Και τώρα ‘γω πιστεύω
και καλότατα ηξεύρω
ότι δύνασ’ αν θελήσεις
και νεκρούς να αναστήσεις.
Τον τάφο να μου δείξετε
και ‘γω τον ανασταίνω.
Τραπέζι να ‘τοιμάσετε
και ‘γω θε να πηγαίνω.
Και παρευθύς επήγαν
και τον τάφο του εδείξαν.
Επήγαν και του έδειξαν
τον τάφο του Λαζάρου
Τους είπε και εκύλησαν
τον λίθο, που ‘χε απάνου.
Τότε ο Χριστός δακρύζει
και τον Άδη φοβερίζει:
<<Άδη, Τάρταρε και Χάρο,
Λάζαρο θα σου τον πάρω>>.
Δεύρο έξω Λάζαρέ μου
φίλε και αγαπητέ μου.
Παρευθύς από τον Άδη
ως εξαίσιο σημάδι
Λάζαρος απελυτρώθη,
ανεστήθη και εσηκώθη,
Λάζαρος σαβανωμένος
και με το κερί ζωσμένος.
Εκεί Μάρθα και Μαρία
εκεί κι όλη Βηθανία.
Μαθητές και Αποστόλοι
τότε ευρεθήκαν όλοι
Δόξα το Θεώ φωνάζουν
και το Λάζαρο ξετάζουν
<<Πες μας, Λάζαρε, τι είδες
εις τον Άδη, όπου πήγες;>>
<<Είδα φόβους, είδα ΄τρόμους,
είδα βάσανα και πόνους.
Δώστε μου λίγο νεράκι,
να ξεπλύνω το φαρμάκι
της καρδιάς, των χειλέων
και μη με ρωτάτε πλέον>>.
Του χρόνου πάλι νιορτάσωμε
με υγεία να σας βρούμε,
στον οίκο σας χαρούμενοι
τον Λάζαρο να πούμε.
Ή τους ήχους μας χαρούμενους πάλι να τραγουδούμε.

Today Christ is coming,
The heavenly God,
In the city of Bethany
Martha and Mary are crying
Lazarus their brother,
Their sweet and beloved.
They mourned him and were speaking
They mourned him and were weeping
Three days they wept for him
And mourned him.
The fourth day
Christ moved to come
And Mary left
Outside of Bethany
And knelt before Him crying
And embraced His feet.
“If You were here, my Christ,
My brother would not have died
But! Even now I believe
And fully I know
That You can do whatever You want
And You can raise the dead."
"Show me the tomb
And I will raise him.
Prepare the table
And I will go there."
And straightaway they went
And showed Him the tomb.
They went and showed Him
The tomb of Lazarus
He told them to roll away
The stone, which was above
Then Christ sheds a tear
And Hades is afraid:
"Hades, Tartarus and Charo,
I will take Lazarus from you”.
Come out my Lazarus
My friend and beloved one.
Straightaway from Hades
As an incredible sign
Lazarus was freed,
Raised up and lifted up,
Lazarus wrapped in a shroud
And belted with waz.
There Martha and Mary
And there all of Bethany.
Disciples and Apostles
Were all found there
"Glory to God", they cried
And greeted Lazarus
“Tell us, Lazarus, what did you see
In Hades, where you went?”
“I saw fears, I saw terrors,
I saw tortures and pains.
Give me a little water,
To wash away the poison
Of my heart, of my lips
And don’t ask me any more.”
Next year may we again celebrate
And find you in health,
And joyfully in your home,
Say “the Lazarus”.
In our joyful tones again let us sing.

A CD "Σήμερον έρχετ' ο Χριστός...: Κάλαντα του Λαζάρου" has been published with many of the folk songs of St. Lazarus from Greece and Cyprus (see:

See the following link for a recipe for Lazarakia:

But among these celebrations, we must not forget the central message of the feast as pertaining to our spiritual lives, as characterized in the following hymn from the "Praises" of the Matins of the Saturday of St. Lazarus:

O Lord, even as You said to Martha: I am the Resurrection; so You fulfilled Your word in action by calling back Lazarus from Hades. Resurrect me, also, for I am dead through passions. I beseech You, compassionate One who love mankind.

May we all be made worthy to see the Holy Passion of Christ and His Glorious Resurrection!

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