Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Lazarus

Every year on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, the Orthodox Church celebrates St. Lazarus the Friend of Christ. We read the account of Christ raising him from the dead in the eleventh chapter of John in anticipation of the resurrection that we will see on Pascha (Easter). Because the chief priests wanted to do him harm (see John 12:10), Lazarus fled the Holy Land and ended up in Cyprus. There, he became the first Bishop of Kition (modern day Larnaca).

In one of the most interesting (and, for me, most personal) stories of his time in Cyprus, St. Lazarus missed his family and friends so deeply that he sent a boat to get the Virgin Mary and others to come visit him. On their journey to Cyprus, a storm blew them off course and they ended up on Mt. Athos (a peninsula in northern Greece). The locals were converted to Christianity and today the mountain is the spiritual center of Orthodox monasticism (it has twenty monasteries, a dozen sketes and several hermitages and the monks there still have a very special relationship with the Virgin Mary).

The Gospel According to John makes a very big deal out of the fact that Lazarus had been dead four days prior to being raised from the dead. This was important, because at four days, the body began to stink — someone was really dead and beyond the hope of resuscitation. This is why Christ rose on the third day — He was not to see any corruption (decay, putrefaction, etc.). In other words, the only way that Lazarus could have been raised from the dead was if God Himself had done so.

This is in stark contrast to the various editions of D&D, which place the number of days a person could be dead prior to the casting of Raise Dead at either 4 days + 4 days/level above 8 of the spell caster or 1 day/level of spell caster. Thus, for those who worry about the ramifications of a world with Raise Dead readily available, Scriptural tradition actually provides for a bit of control — 3 days or nothing.


The Shroud of St. Lazarus

This holy relic appears to be a battered and stained cloth, though it detects strongly of divine magic. Its efficacy only becomes apparent, however, when used to wrap the body of someone recently dead. As long as the body is wrapped within three days of death, the Shroud of St.Lazarus prevents putrefaction. While so wrapped, a Raise Dead spell may be successfully cast upon the body no matter how long it has been since death.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent compromise for folks who don't like raise dead...why should a cleric be more proficient than the Christ (not that the man Jesus couldn't have raised Laz after a month if he'd wanted...).
    : )