Raising Lazarus: the view from the Church Fathers

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What follow is a collection of the reflections of the Fathers on today’s Gospel reading.

 

John 11:1-45

St Augustine reminds us that Lazarus is raised from the dead by the one who created all things and brings new life to all mankind. St Cyril of Alexandria tells us that in mentioning the names of Martha and Mary, the Evangelist is showing us why the Lord loved them for their piety and devotion to Him. He mentions the tale of Mary and the ointment to show that she had such a thirst for Him that she wiped His feet with her hair, seeking to fasten to herself the spiritual blessing that comes from the Holy flesh. She often sits close to Him and is clearly devoted to her Lord. All the more reason then to stress, as Chrysostom does, that this Mary is not the harlot mentioned in Matthew 26:7.

Gregory of Nyssa’s account describes how Christ’s absence gives death the chance to do its work. Chrysostom is not slow to point out that even those closest to Jesus are not spared suffering, sorrow and death. Those, he tells us, who are offended by such things ‘do not know that those who are especially dear to God have it as their lot to endure such things.’

Peter Chrysologus describes the way in which the miracle of Lazarus is quite different from those where Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, or the widow’s only son. Here death has already exerted its full power. Jesus lets death do its worst, and then he does His best – and we see here the power of the Son of God writ large in all its glory.

St Augustine comments on the terms in which the sisters wrote to Jesus. They said that the one whom he loved was ill. They did not ask for healing, but expressed their faith that love does not abandon the object of itself; they knew he would not abandon them. But rather, as St Cyril reminds us, Jesus saw that this would be turned to glory of God, when men saw His power; and He and God are one, for here Jesus says that ‘the Son of God’ might be glorified.

Yet the disciples were, as Augustine comments, fearful, so Jesus reproves them. Christ is the day, His Apostles the twelve hours, and it is not the time to withdraw whilst the Light is with them; the day is followed by the hours; the Apostles follow Jesus. St Athanasius reminds us that everyone who walks in the Light will be saved, but those who turn aside and walk in the darkness will be lost. The upright need fear no ill.

Augustine tells us that in saying that Lazarus is only sleeping, Jesus foreshadow what is to come, since all those who die in faith will be raised again, and so they are, indeed, only sleeping. Jesus did not need to go to Lazarus to raise him, but chose to do so in order that all men should know by whose power this miracle was wrought – including in this number his own disciples. Jesus uses this episode to instruct his own disciples who do not see clearly yet. Thomas the twin grasps the notion that one must die with Jesus to be raised with him, and yet he does not know the fullness of what he says; when the moment comes, he, like the others, will not be there. Of all the Apostles, only St John is at the foot of the Cross.

Origen sees in Mary’s absence the fact that she was quietly and prayerfully hopeful, trusting in the Lord, whilst the more active Martha wanted to rush to Jesus and seek his help. She, too, believes unconditionally. Augustine points out that she does not ask Jesus to raise her brother, she leaves to him the decision on what to do; our faith should imitate that; it is His will, not our will that must be done. Jesus is not the God of the dead but of the living, for those who believe on Him shall not die. As Paul tells us in 1 Thess 4:13-14, those who are asleep in Christ will rise with Him. He is the Life and the Resurrection.

Peter Chrysologus tells us that Christ, and Mary and the Jews all weep. That Mary should have wept was natural since she was the sister and had until that point no comforter. The Jews wept because they were in the presence of that death which is the lots of sons of Adam; as he was then, so would they be soon.. Jesus weeps because he is calling to mind the joy which the resurrection will give to those whom he loves. Chrysostom thinks that Jesus weeps here to show how human he is and to show he shares our sorrow. He asks where they have laid him so that the Jews will come with him to see the miracle.

Jesus is moved because he loves his friend, and his heart goes with those who sorrow. Martha, ever the practical one, intervenes to warn Jesus about what will happen if the stone is removed, but He reproaches her for her unbelief. She believes, and it is her belief and that of Mary which. St Cyril tells us, raises their brother to life. Jesus is the source of life and of hope, and if we will trust him then it will end as he wishes. Jesus thanks His Father, as we should, and like him, we should lift our eyes in prayer. This, Athanasius reminds us, is the voice that spoke the world into creation, and the one that will call us from the tomb at the last day. The unbinding of Lazarus is the type of our being freed from the bonds of sin; many of us are like Lazarus, trapped in the tomb until released by the word of Jesus. That word removes from death its sting, and we can look forward to the resurrection and death has to let us go. But the Jews were confused: some believed, some did not. How hard are the hearts of those who are blind.

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40 thoughts on “Raising Lazarus: the view from the Church Fathers”

  1. “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

    Thanks to these words of Our Lord, we are assured that while our mortal bodies are laid in the grave after our deaths, we ourselves will never die.

    May we take heart from these words and spend our time on earth living for the Lord.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. All the more reason then to stress, as Chrysostom does, that this Mary is not the harlot mentioned in Matthew 26:7.

    That’s what you get listening to unsaved men. Its one and the same Mary.

    All these guys you quote are just paraphrasing scripture. Say the same thing another way. What makes them so great? Why not just quote scripture?

    The unsaved love the things of men. They make cement images of men, and carry them on their shoulders and set them on platforms and bow themselves befor the image.
    Surely they will have their reward.

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    • chalcedon451 said:

      This way, Bosco, we don’t fall into your most common error, of being conceited enough to think that we have nothing to learn from others. You have a huge amount to learn, but because some demon has persuaded you you are guided by the Holy Spirit, you learn nothing – just the way Satan likes it. He uses your pride and egotism to ensnare you. Not, of course, that you will heed the warning – but it has been given.

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  3. Does anyone agree with Chrysostom? This Mary that cried and washed Jesus feet with her tears cant be Mary the harlot, because shes so devoted to Jesus? This shows how dangerous these writers are. people who believe what they say are going to reap the same harvest as these liars. Doesn’t anyone know that whom is forgiven much loves much? Mary was forgiven much so she loves Jesus so much more.

    Hell has enlarged it borders to take in all these followers of men.

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    • chalcedon451 said:

      It seems pretty clear they are not the same person, Bosco, indeed, you may be the last idiot who thinks not; would you like to offer us whatever passes for reasoning in your mind?

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      • I just said so.

        As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

        39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
        You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

        48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

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        • chalcedon451 said:

          no, that’s your opinion; any reasoning behind it?

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          • “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” The Pharisee noted this lady as a sinner. Usually people are on par with each other as being sinners. But this holyman made a note of calling this woman a sinner. This woman obviously knew Jesus. She just didn’t wander in and cry over him.
            That’s my reasoning, and its the reasoning of almost everyone who cares.

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          • chalcedon451 said:

            That ‘reasoning’ contains no explanation for your conclusion.

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  4. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

    Men and costumes. That’s all these saducees care about. By the way, you first pope, Jesus calls him Satan.

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  5. This post has everything. Misleading biblical accounts and a picture of people with these Roman pagan symbols of deity, the Halo. In the above pic it looks like there people are being hit in the head with yellow Frisbees.

    Yes, I know. The CC adopted all the pagan symbols and turned them into godly symbols with a wave of its magic wand. Theres even a term for it, but I keep forgetting the name.

    Yes,we use all the pagan signs…and that shows how holy our church is. You better join it or go to hell. (;-D

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    • chalcedon451 said:

      Giotto is one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance – and this is your only comment! Behold a philistine.

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      • Well, its not good brother Gittos fault. The Roman State run Religion kept all its pagan symbolism and told the people that it is now Christian. This includes the Halo. Now, the halo on the head of someone is commonplace, in catholic and even protestant depictions. That’s what we refer to as a picture of :Mom” in our protestant wallets. Mom being the catholic church, the Mother Church, as it rightly calls itself. heck, we even go to church to worship on sunday, which is a catholic invention. the Sabbath is Saturday.

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  6. By the way, have you heard Michael Voris lately? He has exposed the whole new York catholic clergy. Not that I didn’t know already, but you might like hearing it from a devout and knowledgeable catholic.

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  7. I used to hate Vorhis. Now im his biggest fan. I will even donate money to him. Id like to follow his program and do what I can to help him clean up his church. Ill go into detail tomorrow.

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  8. I found the new York one;

    In short, the whole of the new York clergy are rabid homosexuals having the gay time of their lives.

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    • You do know what they say about those with a great interest in homosexual scandals, don’t you?

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      • Uh, no I don’t. I was under the impression that truth mattered in this blog. Good brother Vorhis said that apologists and catholic bloggers who say the situation is under control and that only a very small Percent of clergy are homosexual, are either high on crack or just liars. He and other insiders set the figure at more than 50%. He says Jesuits are some of the worst. I figured the faithful have a right to know….to know that in new York, many priests have their lovers living with them in the rectory. Good brother Vorhis is determinded to stop this and defrock those priests. Just thought the faithful want to know.

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        • Oh, well, clearly, if one blogger says it is true, that is enough evidence for you; most sensible people (so clearly that excuses you) would want more than one source. So yes, of course, the faithful want to know, but not being you, they want more than one source for the far-reaching claims. Since truth does not matter to you, that won’t have occurred to you.

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  9. But don’t worry about good brother Vorhis, he still says that what is wrong with the world is Protestantism. That doesn’t bother me. Im not protestant.

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