Church seasons

How to not spiritually wither away in the Holy 50

It is written in the life of an enigmatic miracle-working Russian monk who lived in the time of Soviet Russia: “Once on Easter night the guards ordered Fr. Leonty to renounce God. He declined. Then they tied him to a rope and head first dipped him into a toilet bowl…

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After a while they took him back out again and yelled ‘Do you renounce Him now?’ and his answer was ‘Christ is Arisen!’. They dipped him into the bowl again, took him back out, but he repeated– ‘Christ is arisen, people!’ They tortured him, yet they couldn’t make the father renounce God”.

I believe this story contains an important message for us in the holy 50.

Some may wonder, what are we supposed to do in these times? How are we supposed to stay spiritual without fasting, without that struggling atmosphere the Lent provided us? In passion week, we passionately shout our “thok te ti goms”, we attend church services for hours on end and we fast the hardest we possibly can for the year. But then Holy 50 comes, and now what do we do?

Well, whatever it is, let me tell you that I am certain the holy 50 is not an opportunity to become lax. Maybe in your case that means you have not prayed from the agpia since Passion week. Or maybe you might be like my friend who on the first Friday following Easter, confessed to me that he hadn’t read his bible since.

What I believe we can learn from the life of Fr Leonty is that we must continue to struggle spiritually in this holy 50 period and give no place to the devil of laziness.  We must imitate his faithfulness to Christ and his readiness to suffer and struggle for Him, regardless of the time and circumstances. We must keep in mind that although the church does not require that her faithful fast this period, she certainly did not offer this period as one of sinful spiritual sloth.

To help encourage your continued spiritual struggle in this period, I offer here 3 tips…

  • Maintain your prayer rule: keep praying daily using the agpia. Never stop struggling in prayer. On the day you fail to pray sufficiently, consider yourself to have been dead.
  • Listen to the resurrection hymns: the Coptic church’s most joyous hymns are undoubtedly heard in the Holy 50. If this period goes by and you don’t listen daily to these treasurable hymns, you will seriously experience a huge loss. Here is my collection of high quality holy 50 hymns. It includes a very early sunday morning instrumental you can listen to whilst working. It also includes the music of the new music video of the same hymn. Have you seen it? It is amazing and has had over 18 k views in the last 3 weeks! Quick… here is the link.
  • Read the lives of the saints: this is one of the greatest sources of joy in the spiritual life. Who can possibly read the lives of these wonderful human beings and not be lifted up on high with exalted spiritual joyous feelings?  The saints are those who undoubtedly experienced the power of the resurrection. As Fr Vasile Tudora said, “…the saints … did not limit themselves to be observers, to be spectators, to watch the “show” of Resurrection; they decided to play an active role in it.”  The links to the saints’ lives listed in this post and your church bookshop are a good place to start.

So during this period, when you are in the toilet recall the sufferings of this holy confessor who never shirked from his spiritual duties and was never found faithless to the Lord Christ. Remember also the great St Seraphim of Sarov, who through his unceasing spiritual struggle, was able to greet everyone with the resurrection joy using the words “My joy, my joy. Christ is risen”.

“We must keep in mind that although the church does not require that her faithful fast this period, she certainly did not offer this period as one of sinful spiritual sloth.”

Never forget how blessed we are to be born Orthodox. Ekhristos Anesti!

Discussion: What do you do to benefit from the Holy 50?

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