Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Raising of Lazarus

Today's reflection for Lent is on Caravaggio’s Raising of Lazarus, painted in 1609, and now in the Regional Museum of Messina in Sicily. I might have used a painting of Palm Sunday for this one, but wanted to reflect on a reason that the crowds gathered and cheered and laid down palm leaves on that day.

It was because they had seen Our Lord raising up Lazarus from the dead, and thought He was the messiah who would bring political power to them. This was the fulfillment of scripture and the old covenant, and so characterizes the old sabbath, Saturday, but in a Christian light. In the Eastern Church the Saturday before Palm Sunday is called Lazarus Saturday. We can see that what happened subsequently eclipsed this: the crucifixion and death of Our Lord, which was a disappointment to many of those who were cheering that day, but which led to the Resurrection. So Saturday as well as Sunday has new meaning. Saturday is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and an anticipation of the New Covenant, by which we are all raised up, but unlike Lazarus at this point, not just to life, but to eternal life, because of the events celebrated on Easter Sunday. This is the ‘8th day’, Christ, whose resurrection is celebrated every Sunday, characterizing the New Covenant. 
We undergo a spiritual death, rebirth and union with God in the triple sacrament of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, achieved through the one is who is God, Jesus Christ who destroyed death by death. God willing, this will lead to our own bodily resurrections on the last day.

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