Resurrection of Lazarus Day

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Fire of the Lord’s Life-giving Love
Resurrection of Lazarus Day
11 April, 2009
Hebrews 12:28-13:8 ; John 11:1- 45

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle says to us this morning that the Lord is a “consuming fire”. This is true. However, this is not the sort of fire that is destroying, burning up and getting rid of everything altogether without regard like a forest fire. The Lord’s fire is the fire of His love. In this consuming fire He burns up everything that is unworthy, that is dross. He burns up everything that is impure and contrary to Him. He does the same in our lives. He cleans us. He washes us. This consuming fire is a purifying fire. It is the fire of His love. It is the fire which can make all things pure.

The Lord demonstrates this fire in a different way as He comes to Bethany today and raises Lazarus from the dead. This is an expression of the fire of His consuming love. This love and this fire are alive. No-one can ever say that fire is static. No fire is not alive, somehow. Fire is alive. It is purifying. It is cleansing. It can be live-giving, too. In the case of Lazarus, the fire is life-giving. If anyone has any doubts about life-giving fire, well, let us pay attention to certain sorts of coniferous trees such as the ponderosa pine trees, for instance (but probably a large number of the pine trees of the boreal forests of Canada, too), whose seeds do not germinate unless they have been burned. After a forest fire, there is new life always coming from the earth. The forest fire is cleaning out the dead wood, and other dead underbrush. After the forest fire has passed through, new life springs forth from the burnt-out underbrush.

Fire can give life. This consuming fire – this fire of the love of the Lord – gives life today to Lazarus. This consuming fire is love. This fire brings faith. Martha already knew, along with Mary, about the resurrection and the life of the resurrection. They believed that there would be the resurrection even before they understood what it really meant. They simply accepted the promise of it. They believed that God’s love is such that this resurrection would occur eventually. They had no idea that they were going to have a concrete experience of it on this very day. Today, our Saviour says to Lazarus : “‘Come forth’”. And Lazarus does come forth, not stinking, but full of life. He went on in his own life to be a life-giver because he became later on a bishop in Cyprus. He, himself, became a missionary, a living testimony of how God’s life-giving love operates.

We, ourselves, are not deprived of His love, His life-giving love. This life-giving love also has another face which we see very clearly today. Our Lord shows to us His humanity in a very concrete way : first, when He is groaning in His spirit, and people are hearing these groans ; secondly, when He is weeping. He is doing this because He is compassionate. The Lord’s love is not untouchable by our sorrow and our pain. He is concretely showing us and reminding us today that His love for us is not some sort of remote theory. The Lord, in His love, is not merely some sort of philosopher or demonstrator of magic tricks or something like that. The Lord is Life. The Lord is Love. The Lord is Compassion. He cares about us. He cares about the difficult pains of our lives, our sorrows, the struggles we endure, our darkness. He cares about all that. That is clearly demonstrated today as we see Him weeping and we hear Him groaning in the context of all those who had been weeping for the death of Lazarus. He was feeling compassionate sorrow for Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.

The Lord loves us. His love is capable of showing deep compassion and empathy, one could say. Empathy may seem to be a shallow word to describe how the Lord is involved with us and with our pain, with our difficulties and with our whole life. His love penetrates our whole life.

It is important for us, in the context of His life-creating love, to remember those words which are irrevocably my favourite words of Scripture from my childhood : “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in His love, never changes. He is always the same Person. This same Person whom we see raising Lazarus today, is the same Jesus Christ, who 2,000 years later after this life-giving Event, still loves us in the same way that He loves Lazarus, Mary, Martha, His disciples and apostles, and everyone around Him.

Let us be confident in this life-giving love on this Resurrection of Lazarus Day which is prefiguring the Resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. These Resurrections are our hope, our own hope of eternal life in the love of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is unchanging in His love and who is constantly with us.

Let us give thanks to Him for His love. Let us ask Him to enable us never to forget this love in the difficulties of our life, but rather daily to give thanks for it, and to participate in it willingly and openly. Let us glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.