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Lazarus Saturday. Eastern Orthodox Church commemoration of the resurrection by Jesus of the brother of Mary of Bethany and Martha (Lazarus of the Four Days, Righteous Lazarus) 4 days after his death. Lazarus Saturday starts when Great Lent ends at Vespers on the evening of the Sixth Friday. The resurrection of Lazarus is understood as a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Jesus and Resurrection hymns are chanted at Matins on the morning of Lazarus Saturday. On this Saturday, hermits would leave their retreats in the wilderness to return to the monastery for the Holy Week services. In the Greek Church, it is customary on Lazarus Saturday to plait elaborate crosses out of palm leaves in preparation for the Palm Sunday procession. Although the 40-day Great Lenten penitence and fasting ended on the Sixth Friday, fasting continues with the Passion Week Fast until after the Paschal Vigil early on the morning of the Feast of Great and Holy Pascha. In Greece and Cyprus, where St Lazarus was the first Bishop, mildly sweet Lenten lazarakia (little Lazarus breads) are made with sweet-smelling spices to look like Lazarus bound up in grave clothes. In Russia, it is traditional to eat caviar on Lazarus Saturday. The feast of Vrbica (Врбица), Lazareva Subota (Лазарева Субота) or Lazarovden (Лазаровден) is commemorated by Serbian and Bulgarian Orthodox Christians but, due to a lack of palm trees, pussy willow branches are blessed and distributed to the faithful for small bells to be tied to the branches. The Raising of Lazarus is commemorated in the Church Calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Feast Day of the beggar Lazarus is 28 June and some churches celebrate 17 December as the Feast Day of Saint Lazarus of Bethany. Image: The Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

Prayer God our Father, whose Son enjoyed the love of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, may we so rejoice in Your love that the world may come to know the depths of Your wisdom, the wonder of Your compassion and Your power to bring life out of death, through the merits of Jesus Christ, Who is alive and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen

St Mellitus of London (d624). Feast Day commemorating death of noble Abbot, 1st Bishop to the Saxon kingdom of Essex, in 604 1st Bishop of London in the Saxon period, with his Cathedral at St Paul’s, and 3rd Archbishop of Canterbury, a member of the Gregorian mission sent 601 to England to support St Augustine in converting the Anglo-Saxons of Kent from their native paganism to Christianity by integrating pagan rituals and customs. Mellitus was exiled from London c616 by the pagan successors to his patron, the King of Essex and took refuge in Gaul. Mellitus was recalled to Britain by the 2nd Archbishop of Canterbury but could not return to London, as the East Saxons remained pagan. Mellitus was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 619 and miraculously saved the Cathedral, and much of the town of Canterbury, from a 623 fire when he was carried into the flames and the wind changed direction. When Mellitus died in Canterbury, he was buried at St Augustine’s Abbey the same day. There was also a shrine to him at Old St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. Image: telegraph.co.uk.

St Ecgberht of Ripon (Egbert of Rath Melsigi) (639-729). Feast Day for noble Anglo-Saxon monk of Northumbria and Bishop of Lindisfarne who travelled to Ireland to study and settle at the monastery of Rath Melsigi, County Carlow, where he survived the plague, vowing that if he recovered he would become a peregrinus on perpetual pilgrimage from his homeland of Britain and would lead a life of penitential prayer and fasting. He was 25 and kept his vow until his death at 90, as one of the most famous Early-Medieval pilgrims, occupying a prominent position in a political and religious culture that spanned northern Britain and the Irish Sea. He began to organise monks in Ireland to proselytise in Frisia, along with Sts Adalbert, Swithbert and Chad. Ecgberht was dissuaded from travelling to Frisia by a vision of a Melrose monk and dispatched another English monk living at Rath Melsigi. Ecgberht had influential contacts with the Kings of Northumbria, the Picts and Iona, which he persuaded c716 to adopt the Roman dating of Easter. He died on Iona. Venerated in Catholic, Orthodox Churches. Major shrine Ripon. Image: pinterest.com.