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© franciscan cyberspot


  * Introd.
  * Texts
  * Gospels
  * Byzan. 1
  * Byzan. 2
  * Byzan. 3
  * Pilgrims
  * Mid.Ages
  * Modern
  * Conclusion

Bethany in Byzantine times II

View of Bethany

Egeria's Itinerary is invaluable for reconstructing the liturgy as it was carried out in the church of Jerusalem at the beginning of the 5th century. The name of the Lazarium shows three times in the course of the liturgical year as described by the Spanish pilgrim: the fifth day of the Octave of the Epiphany, the vigil of Palm Sunday and within the Octave of Easter.

When Egeria writes of ceremonies held on the Octave of Easter she is not clear. While, throughout the eight days, the Lazarium was decorated and adorned like for the Octave of the Epiphany, the ceremony of the fifth day took place, not at Bethany, but at the Anastasis. Thus, there is no sure proof that a special assembly took place at Bethany during the Octave of Easter.

Bethany continued to figure amongst the main shrines visited by members of the Jerusalem Church. The Armenian Lectionary, which dates back to 464-468, still sets down the ceremony for the Octave of the Epiphany and for the vigil of Palm Sunday. However, the former takes place, not on the fifth. but on the sixth day of the Octave. The Lectionary makes detailed mention of the texts read or chanted during the celebrations. Egeria describes them as appropriate "to the day and place": a verse or the whole text of Psalm 29 in which the poet thanks God for deliverance from death. Then follows an extract from the First Epistle to the Thessalonians 4:12-14 or 12-17, where Paul speaks of the resurrection of the body. together with a reading of Psalm 39 which contains the supplication of a sick person. During the Octave of the Epiphany, the gospel telling of the raising of Lazarus is read (John 11:1-46) and, on the vigil of Palm Sunday. the story of the anointing by Mary, already mentioned by Egeria (John 11:55-12: II).

The later pilgrims, Arculf(670) and Bernard the Monk (866-870) make mention of the Bethany monastery, but we do not know when it was founded. The slopes of Mount Olivet attracted hermits and ascetics from the fourth century onward, and it is not unlikely that, at that time, monks or religious had already settled around the famous tomb of Lazarus.

Excavations at Bethany

The Feast of Epiphany - Octave of the Festival

On the second day also they proceed in like manner to the church in Golgotha, and also on the third day; thus the feast is celebrated with all this joyfulness for three days up to the sixth hour in the church built by Constantine. On the fourth day it is celebrated in like manner with similar festal array in Eleona, the very beautiful church which stands on the Mount of Olives; on the fifth day in the Lazarium, which is distant about one thousand five hundred paces from Jerusalem; on the sixth day in Sion, on the seventh day in the Anastasis, and on the eighth day at the Cross. Thus, then, is the feast celebrated with all this joyfulness and festal array throughout the eight days in all the holy places which I have mentioned above.

The altar at Bethany
Saturday before Palm Sunday.--Station at Bethany.

Now when the seventh week has come, that is, when two weeks, including the seventh, are left before Easter, everything is done on each day as in the weeks that ,are past, except that the vigils of the sixth weekday, which were kept in the Anastasis during the first six weeks, are, in the seventh week, kept in Sion, and with the same customs that obtained during the six weeks in the Anastasis. For throughout the whole vigil psalms and antiphons are said appropriate both to the place and to the day.

And when the morning of the Sabbath begins to dawn, the bishop offers the oblation. And at the dismissal the archdeacon lifts his voice and says: " Let us all be ready to-day at the seventh hour in the Lazarium." And so, as the seventh hour approaches, all go to the Lazarium, that is, Bethany, situated at about the second milestone from the city.

And as they go from Jerusalem to the Lazarium, there is, about five hundred paces from the latter place, a church in the street on that spot where Mary the sister of Lazarus met with the Lord. Here, when the bishop arrives, all the monks meet him, and the people enter the church, and one hymn and one antiphon are said, and that passage is read in the Gospel where the sister of Lazarus meets the Lord. Then, after prayer has been made, and when all have been blessed, they go thence with hymns to the Lazarium.

And on arriving at the Lazarium, so great a multitude assembles that not only the place itself, but also the fields around, are full of people. Hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, and likewise all the lessons are read. Then, before the dismissal, notice is given of Easter, that is, the priest ascends to a higher place and reads the passage that is written in the Gospel: When Jesus six days before the Passover had come to Bethany, and the rest. So, that passage having been read and notice given of Easter, the dismissal is made.

This is done on that day because, as it is written in the Gospel, these events took place in Bethany six days before the Passover; there being six days from the Sabbath to the fifth weekday on which, after supper, the Lord was taken by night. Then all return to the city direct to the Anastasis, and lucernare takes place according to custom.

© franciscan cyberspot - text written by Albert Storme

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