Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations. Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday). Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let’s explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week.
Lazarus Saturday: Lazarus Saturday is the day which begins Holy Week. It commemorates the raising of our Lord’s friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days. This act confirmed the universal resurrection from the dead that all of us will experience at our Lord’s Second Coming. This miracle led many to faith, but it also led to the chief priest’s and Pharisees’ decision to kill Jesus (John 11:47-57).
Palm Sunday (The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem): Our Lord enters Jerusalem and is proclaimed king – but in an earthly sense, as many people of His time were seeking a political Messiah. Our Lord is King, of course, but of a different type – the eternal King prophesied by Zechariah the Prophet. We use palms on this day to show that we too accept Jesus as the true King and Messiah of the Jews, Who we are willing to follow – even to the cross.
One of the most miraculous details of our Savior’s life was foreseen by the Prophet Zacharias through the dark glass of time, and described thus: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.(Zach. 9:9). The Apostle Luke, an eyewitness, describes this event:
On this day, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, we celebrate the fourth-day raising from the dead of Lazarus, the righteous friend of Christ.
Lazarus was a Hebrew, of the sect of the Pharisees and, as far as is known, he was the son of Simon the Pharisee, who dwelt in the village of Bethany. He became a friend of our Lord Jesus Christ when He sojourned on earth for the salvation of our race. For when Christ continually conversed with Simon, entering his house and discoursing on the resurrection from the dead, Lazarus was quite pleased with the genuineness of this teaching, and not only he, but also his two sisters, Martha and Mary.
On the occasion of the forthcoming radiant Feast-day of Resurrection of Christ, which Western Christians celebrate according to Western tradition (Paschalia), His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej has sent Easter greetings to the primates of non-Orthodox Churches: His Holiness Pope Francis of Rome, His Grace Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the Presiding Bishop of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany His Grace Bishop Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, as well as to dignitaries of other Protestant Churches in the world.
Serbian Patriarch Irinej congratulated most cordially the Feast-day of Resurrection of Christ to dignitaries and the faithful of traditional Churches and religious communities in Serbia: Roman Catholic Church, Slovak Evangelical Church in Serbia, Reformed Christian Church in Serbia and Methodist Church of Serbia.
His Holiness extended Easter greetings also to ecumenical and confessional bodies and organizations: World Council of Churches, Conference of European Churches, Lutheran World Council, Alliance of Reformed Churches, and other interchurch bodies and organizations.
The Editorial board of the Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church uses this opportunity to congratulate them the forthcoming bright holidays of the Resurrection of Christ with the joyful greeting:
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
TO ALL THE HIERARCHS, CLERGY AND FAITHFUL
OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN FATHERLAND, REGION AND ABROAD
It is Our Honour to inform you about a magnificent event of the transfer of the Holy Fire from the Holy City of Jerusalem to Belgrade, which is going to come from the Holy Land to our Fatherland Serbia, God permitting, on the eve of the Resurrection Day of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, i.e. in the evening on Holy and Great Saturday, April 11th, 2015.
Thou didst sever with the sword of abstinence the snares of the soul and the passion of the body, O righteous one. And by the silence of asceticism thou didst choke the sins of thought. And by the stream of thy tears thou didst water the whole wilderness, bringing forth for us the fruits of repentance. Wherefore, we celebrate thy memory.
-Vespers of the Feast
On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. By her example, we are reminded of the extraordinary power of repentance and God’s mercy, by which even the greatest sinner may be transformed and sanctified.