Easter in Russia – Лазарева суббота (Lazarus Saturday) and Вербное Воскресенье (Pussy Willow Sunday)

Moscow's main church, Christ the Saviour Cathedral. (photo: neoguru.livejournal)This past Saturday Orthodox Churches remembered the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus Christ, a week before Easter.

Righteous Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was brought back to life by the spoken command of Christ four days after his death. The event, the last among the supernatural miracles of Christ in his earthly life, testified to His divine nature and promised a future resurrection of every person to eternal life. The miracle convinced many to place their faith in Christ, but also aroused indignation among Jewish elders.

According to historical records Lazarus lived 30 years after the miracle and served as a bishop in Cyprus, where he was buried. At the end of the 9th century, his tomb was found with the inscription “Lazarus, a friend of Christ”. Upon his tomb’s discovery the Byzantine emperor moved his relics to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey).

(photo: from pravmir.com by just-melanie)

Of course palms are not grown everywhere in the world so Orthodox peoples who live in areas without palms use pussy willow branches in place of palms for this event. Russian Churches call this Sunday as Вербное Воскресенье (Pussy Willow Sunday). Some churches hand out small crosses made of palms to be kept in the icon corner of your home.

(photo: from pravmir.com by Igor Podvisotsky)

Saturday Lazarus services are timed in Orthodox churches to mark the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia led the Russian service in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. In Russia the Saturday before the week of Easter is also named Willow (Palm) Sunday in memory of the greeting of Christ with branches of trees. During the liturgy, pussy willow branches are blessed with sprinkling of holy water.