Friday, March 27, 2009

Lazarus as Everyman

Lazarus is Everyman; every man is Lazarus.  (Significantly, in Hebrew, Lazarus is אלעזר, that is, Elʿāzār or Eleazar, meaning "God [has] helped".)  So Augustine thinks: "Someone saith: How by Lazarus is signified the sinner, and why by the Lord is he so loved?   Let him hear Him saying: I came not to call the just, but sinners.  For if God had not loved sinners, He had not come down to earth from heaven."  (Lesson iii at Matins, from his Tract 49 on St John's Gospel.)  Amazing and astounding should it ever appear to us, that "God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (St John iii, 16) - this truth should be grasped in astonishment ever new.  

Moreover, why was all mankind fallen and sitting in the darkness and shadow of death?  St Augustine goes on: "And hearing Jesus, He said unto them: This infirmity is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God be glorified."  What awesome mystery, stupefyingly so: that the Fall and the languishing of man in sin is not intended to issue in man perishing everlastingly (every Lenten feria at Prime we repeat the Lord's asseveration, Nolo mortem peccatoris, sed ut magis convertatur, et vivat: "I do not will the death of the sinner, but more that he be converted, and live"), but rather original sin and all ensuing actual sin is to be turned, not into misery here and punishment hereafter, but into the means for giving God the glory, and precisely through the exaltation of Christ - on His Cross.

The Lord takes worse than dross, and makes of it better than gold.  What hope, then, for everyman: even when dead in sin as Lazarus, there is hope that (though "he stinketh") he shall be called forth from the massa damnata, and by the Lord raised up - "Lazarus, come forth!"

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