On the 41st day of the period of Great Lent, the Armenian Church commemorates Lazarus being raised from the dead.
In the Armenian Church, Holy Week (Avak Shapat) begins not on Palm Sunday, but on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday. It is not a fasting day or a saints’ day, even though Lazarus is a saint in the Armenian Church. It is a dominical day on which daily services, including Badarak, are celebrated.
The story of the raising of Lazarus, the last event prior to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, properly initiates Holy Week and sets the theme of Zadig (Easter), and it is Easter that sets the theme for our lives.
The Gospel according to St. John (Jn 11:11-46) relates the story. Lazarus was from a family loved by Jesus Christ. He was the brother of Mary and Martha, who often received Jesus. Lazarus died after succumbing to an illness. Upon hearing that His friend has died, Christ went to visit the family, and said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies…”
Christ asks Martha if she believes this, to which she replies, “Yes, Lord. I do believe that you are the Messiah, who was to come into the world.” Christ, standing before the grave, commands Lazarus to come forth, and he appears, being restored to life. By doing so, Christ proves that He is, in fact, “Life and Resurrection”.
The Gospel story telling about the raising of Lazarus contains the passage: “Jesus wept.” The Jews, seeing Jesus expressing grief, said: “See how much he loved him!”
The raising of Lazarus is an example of the coming resurrection of all those who have fallen asleep in Christ. The weeping of Jesus demonstrates His great love towards mankind.
It is not the story of the person of Lazarus that draws the attention for Armenian Christians, rather what it tells us about Jesus Christ, the Caller to Life, and the temporary chapter that is death. Jesus has conquered death, and shares with us his resurrection of life (see Romans 8:11, I Peter 1:3).
“In His humanity Jesus wept for Lazarus; in His divinity he raised him from the dead.” Pope Leo I