Whatever happened to Lazarus?

One of the worst bumps on the head I ever got was going down the steps into the tomb of Lazarus about 25 years ago. We were on our second September pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and were anxious to visit Bethany, where Lazarus lived with his sisters Martha and Mary. The modern village of al-Eizariya is believed to mark the spot, and there we find a church dedicated to the family, while the adjacent Tomb itself is on ground owned by Moslems. As I went down the 20 or so steps, at the bottom I banged my head on the low roof. Ouch!

So what happened to Lazarus after his raising by Jesus? He is mentioned a few times later in the Gospels, but for the time beyond that we have to rely on tradition (or legends). The Eastern tradition tells how he went with St Paul to Cyprus, becoming first bishop of present-day Larnaka. From there, as Islam advanced westwards, his relics were taken to Constantinople (Istanbul) and later to Marseille in Provence.

At this point this tradition joins another Western one, which has Lazarus and his sisters, along with the other Marys from the Crucifixion plus a maid, put out to sea by hostile Jews. They drift across the Mediterranean until they land in Provence. The beautiful town of Les-Saintes-Maries on the edge of the Camargue lies where the group traditionally landed. From here the group scatters across southern France, except for the other Marys, who stayed and gave their name to the town. Our September pilgrims also visited some of these sites in 1993 and again in 2011.

One of the strangest parts of the Eastern legends of Lazarus tells how Lazarus never smiled during the thirty years after his resurrection. He had been traumatized, we would say today, by the sight of unredeemed souls he had seen during his four-day stay in the underworld/Hades. Well I suppose being dead would have quite an effect on you, wouldn’t it? The only exception was, when he saw someone stealing a pot, he smilingly said: “the clay steals the clay.” But I’m sure Lazarus was raised again, this time not a resuscitation like in today’s Gospel, but a rising to eternal life, through Easter, which we will all celebrate in two weeks’ time.

Fr Matthew

Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day?

Not everything is as it seems. For example, did you realize that “Mother’s Day” and the much older “Mothering Sunday” have separate origins?
Mothering Sunday During the sixteenth century, people would return to their “mother church”, the main church of the area, for a service to be held on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday. This was either the church where you were baptized, or the local parish church, or the cathedral. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone “a-mothering”.
In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families of ordinary folks could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours. Children and young people who were “in service” (as household servants) were given a day off so they could visit their families (or, originally, to return to their “mother” church). The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.
Mother’s Day This modern version really began in the United States. In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis’s efforts there, Constance Penwick-Smith, a vicar’s daughter from Nottinghamshire, created the Mothering Sunday Movement here in Britain, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the day. The success of this revival was through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad during World War II.
Merged or confused? In Britain the traditions of Mothering Sunday were merged with the newly imported Mother’s Day customs, and came to be celebrated in secular society, and often now in churches. UK merchants, of course, saw the commercial opportunity in the special day, and have relentlessly promoted it. By the 1950s, it was celebrated across all the UK. The two celebrations of Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day have now been mixed up, and many people think they are the same thing, but now you know better…

Fr Matthew (with acknowledgements to Wikipedia!)

Most Holy of weeks

In just three weeks we will be celebrating Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. The last days of that week, the Sacred Triduum, lie at the centre of our Catholic year, taking us to the very roots of our faith. We should make every effort to celebrate these unique days together as one. So here are some details…

Cardiff Deanery Station Mass Thursday 6 April at St David’s College 7pm. Catholics from all over Cardiff gather with our priests and Archbishop to prepare for Holy Week.
Palm Sunday 9 April Masses at normal Sunday time, with blessing of palms at all celebrations. Chrism Mass Wednesday 12 April St David’s Cathedral 11.30am. People from all over the diocese gather with all our priests, deacons and Archbishop. Priests renew our ordination promises and the sacramental oils are blessed and consecrated.


Mass of the Lord’s Supper Maundy Thursday 13 April 8pm at St Brigid’s. We remember the Last Supper by celebrating the Eucharist together on the evening when it was instituted. We also give thanks for the priesthood and, inspired by the Washing of Feet we renew our commitment to service. Mass is followed by Watching at the Altar of Repose until midnight.
Commemoration of the Passion Good Friday 14 April 3pm at both St Paul’s and Christ the King. On this solemn day we remember the suffering and death of Our Lord. Please note that there will be Children’s Liturgy at both of these Services.
Easter Vigil and First Mass of Easter Saturday 15 April 8.30pm at Christ the King. The climax of Holy Week and Lent as a whole. We start outside for the blessing of the Easter fire and Paschal Candles, and move into the Church for the Exsultet, our remembering the journey of God’s People through the Old Testament, the Easter Gospel, the Baptismal Rite including the Baptism and Confirmation of James Sibbald and renewal of our own vows – and, of course our Easter Eucharist. Not to be missed…
Easter Sunday 16 April Normal Mass times.
Please take note of these dates, times and places in order to avoid confusion. Let’s make this Holy Week truly the high point of our year – together.

Fr Matthew