The Simplest, Littlest Things

The Simplest, Littlest Things

If you looked at my 2020 planner in January, you would see back-to-back classes, club meetings, assignments, and exams, as well as vacations, road trips, summer camp, and OCF events lined up for the year. 

That planner was basically useless a few months later. By March, as we all know, plans were postponed, with some eventually leading to cancellation. As someone who loves being on-the-go with an endless to-do list, it was difficult to feel thankful when I realized I wasn’t going to be living the 2020 I envisioned and planned for at the beginning of the year. 

When the initial shutdown occurred, I moved back in with my parents. Emotions were heightened: I was frustrated with the transition to remote learning, stressed because I simultaneously became IT, secretary, barber, chef (not a brilliant one, might I add), and chauffeur as soon as I parked in the garage at my parents’ home. I was disappointed that I couldn’t physically attend church, saddened by having to postpone or cancel plans, and distraught at the sight of the world amid the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic. As I created a new routine and schedule, I gave myself two options: sulk around in my sorrows or search for joy. It took me some time, but I chose to search for joy, and that’s when my attitude suddenly snapped together. 

Being back at home with my family allowed me to do things I regretted not doing prior to moving out in 2018, or doing things I missed doing with them while at UCSB. 

My mom attempted to teach me how to cook her Arab recipes. 

My dad and I visited our family vineyards more frequently, allowing us to breathe fresh air that felt stripped away when wearing a mask. 

My older sister and I bonded and spent more quality time together than we probably ever have in our lives. 

My education was (and still is) quite literally at my fingertips in a virtual world through my laptop.

Most importantly, my God is always surrounding me.

As challenging as it felt in the beginning, I found that it was the simplest, littlest things that I should have been more grateful for all along: my family, friends and community, my home, food, education, and faith. 

In a chaotic world that has felt like it’s crumbling this year, we should remember to be grateful to God and what He blesses us with, to be grateful for the plan He writes out for us, rather than trying to write it for ourselves. In the words of St. Basil the Great, 

“When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love, and praise their Creator.”

Andrew Gluntz

Jeanine Kaileh

Southwest Regional Student Leader

I am a 3rd year biopsychology major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I enjoy cooking, baking, reading, journaling, and tatreezing (traditional Palestinian embroidery). I’m serving on the Student Leadership Board as the Southwest Regional Student Leader for my second year and love OCF with all of my heart!
Eucharist Each Moment

Eucharist Each Moment

November! It’s here! Just a few more weeks of fall semester, powering our way through the intensity of school, while the holidays await us. On Thanksgiving, my family has a practice of going around and having each person say what they are thankful for that year. We often say something which has turned out for the best that year or thank God for the family, friends, successes, and moments of beauty in our lives. 

These things are BEAUTIFUL. They are full of life and love and show us pieces of God’s kingdom. Although it may be a challenge to always notice these moments, in some sense it is easy to give thanks for these things.

What about the other moments? What about the pain, the hurt, and the tears we shed? When we look back on our year and recall what we are thankful for, should we ignore these moments?

Christ’s sacrificial love is abundant and always present. Even in our moments of pain and struggle, He is with us just as much as He is in the “good” times. 

This past week, I had the joy of hearing the Akathist of St. Marina. St. Marina was a saint who was martyred when she was only fifteen years old. The Akathist praises her steadfastness, wisdom, and beauty of soul throughout her life and martyrdom. In a prayer before being beheaded,  she said,

 “O Beginningless, Immortal, Timeless, Incomprehensible and Unimaginable Lord, the God of all and Creator of all creation, the Foreseer and Savior of all, as I have hoped in You, I thank You, that You have brought me to this hour, as I approach the crown of Your righteousness.” 

While undergoing horrendous torture and ultimately dying for her faith, St. Marina was still in a state of thanksgiving. Even the Akathist of Thanksgiving, (which we will be praying together on 11/19 at 8 EST, find the details and zoom link here…I hope to see you there!) was written by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov while he was in a prison camp! At the darkest points of life, we see the wisest people responding in the same way. With thanks. 

I have heard from many of my friends and can relate personally as well, to the struggle of this semester. Pre-existent stresses and underlying problems we faced are magnified through our current situation with this global pandemic. New challenges, a barrage of disheartening news, and the pain and struggles of people we know can bring forth these moments of hurt and tears. It is not our natural instinct to remain steadfast in our thanksgiving in these moments. However, when we look at the examples of St. Marina and Fr. Petrov we see that this is exactly what they did. 

Eucharist literally means thanksgiving in Greek (ευχαριστία). Liturgy is the celebration of the sacrifice Christ made for us. What we often forget is that the entire liturgy happens again each moment. Every single second of our lives Christ goes to the cross for us. Eucharist is in each moment, and that is how we can give thanks at all times for each moment, whether that moment is filled with laughter or with tears, it is always filled with the love of Christ. Glory to God for all things!

Andrew Gluntz

Alethia Placencia

Publications Student Leader

I am a senior at the University of Kentucky studying philosophy and microbiology. I love hiking, staying active, and enjoying great books and food! Above all, I love the family OCF has given me. Whatever your story may be, there is a place for you in this community! Reach out to learn more about OCF or if you would like to contribute to the blog! publicationsstudent@ocf.net

Woven and Knit

Woven and Knit

Picture this: Family outing, you are walking through the halls of a museum, feeling a little more boujee and artsy than your usual self. You trot through the high-ceilinged, awkwardly chilly, and oh so silent galleries, glancing at different installments and occasionally reading how a piece of art was made. You step into a hall of large tapestries. You first think, why are these rugs so big? You begin to spend a bit more time there, only to be completely entranced by the magnitude, complexity, and time it must have taken to put something like this together!

This is a very specific situation you may or may not have ever experienced, but I think we got to a place where we can all picture it. If you didn’t know how tapestries are made, they are compiled of many strings, woven together on a loom. The pieces are placed in just the right way so that the front of the tapestry seamlessly presents an awe-inspiring picture. On the backside however, the picture is often inverted, disjointed, with more strings sticking out than frizzy hairs after an intense workout. 

Consider these majestic tapestries. Is there a significance in the finished product which is displayed and the back which marks the struggles, inconsistencies, and mistakes that went into making it? How do we see ourselves? At each moment in time do we recognize the beauty which is formed through our lives or are we often caught in the tangling disjointedness? 

The comparison of the Christian life to a tapestry is one that resonates and allows us to clarify a way to see the unique identity and journey we have in Christ. There is a certain inner harmony and freedom available in this understanding as well. We are able to recognize our wholeness as fulfilled through layers of our brokenness as our, “Wonderful Counselor” guides us to unity within ourselves. 

We are now able to see that the pieces of our life are woven together, but what about each other? Our communities? Are these not woven too? 

So much of our worldly experience is accompanied with unrest, disagreement, misunderstanding, pride, and so many other opportunities for division. 

In a quote from Mother Teresa she says, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” In Colossians 2:2, Paul, while away, wishes he was with his flock and hopes “that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love.” The devil is always inciting division. He gives us ways to spend our time and things to care about which may seem harmless. Yet ultimately, it is these things that bring us farther from our brothers and sisters and most importantly, from Christ! 

When I was first introduced to OCF, I didn’t know much about Orthodox Awareness Month each October. My interpretation now is that it is a time to reflect on how we can knit our lives together — to be aware of the way we use our time and fill it with things that bring us closer to Christ and each other. We can see Christ in every person — our Orthodox brothers and sisters and our Non-Orthodox friends alike. Let us be aware of the ways we, through sin divide, and through love connect. Let us thank God for the wonderful tapestries of our lives and let us do our best to knit them to one another. 

Andrew Gluntz

Alethia Placencia

Publications Student Leader

I am a senior at the University of Kentucky studying philosophy and microbiology. I love hiking, staying active, and enjoying great books and food! Above all, I love the family OCF has given me. Whatever your story may be, there is a place for you in this community! Reach out to learn more about OCF or if you would like to contribute to the blog! publicationsstudent@ocf.net

Mike Posner and Meeting Christ in Each Moment

Mike Posner and Meeting Christ in Each Moment

There is something indefinable about being in the present moment.  

Our theme for this year is “Awake O My Soul” — taken from Psalm 57, and we also hear it in the Canon of St. Andrew. When we read this verse we are calling upon our own souls to wake up.  

What are we waking up from? What are we waking up to?

One of my all time favorite middle school nostalgia songs is, Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner. Mike is forever tied to my childhood memories, but recently he has had my attention for a new reason.  

In 2019, he walked across the United States. After the passing of his dad and one of his good friends, he set out on a journey. He documents this journey in the music video of his song, Live Before I Die.

In the music video for his song, Move On, he explains why he decided to do this. He sings, “Beginnings always hide themselves in ends.” In tragedy he saw hope; hope to make a change in the way he was living, hope to truly wake up to life.  

In his song, Live Before I Die, he says, “Dear Lord, won’t you please give me wisdom, grant me peace, ‘Cause i just wanna live before I die.” 

When we say the phrase “live before I die,” we may think it means doing as many things as we can before we leave this world. However, we have the potential to grow closer to truly living or dying each day. The way we live out our moments allow us to choose to be awake to life or stay asleep.  

In Genesis 28:16, Jacob, upon waking from sleep, proclaimed, “the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” Christ waits for us at each moment. We must remind our souls of this truth and to be attentive to each second we have been given.  

Right now we are starting back at school. Many of us are coming back online. We may need a call to awake our souls now more than ever! With all that we have experienced the last few months, it may be difficult to feel that we are directing and not drifting through our lives. How can we wake up? How can we truly live at a time like this?   

In the Canon of St. Andrew, translated by Sister Katherine and Sister Thekla, we hear, “Awake, O my soul…that thou gain a mind to see God.” (pg.97)  

In A Message for our Graduates of 2020 on YouTube, His Grace Bishop Anthony said, “Keep Christ before you, the Holy Spirit beside you, and the Father above you.” If we were to carry this out in our lives each moment would be fulfilled. “He died for us, so that we could live for him.” This is how we may live before we die: to be seeking, guided, and fueled by our Lord at all times and at every hour.  

Even after Mike Posner began his journey he faced challenges. After traversing over half of our country, he was bitten by a rattlesnake and had to learn to walk again before he could continue. We don’t know what is in store for us, but what we can do is call upon ourselves, at every moment, to be awake to Christ extending to us. Awake, O My Soul, so that I may truly live before I die. 

Alethia Placencia

Alethia Placencia

Publications Student Leader

My name is Alethia Placencia! I am a Senior at the University of Kentucky. Christ often reveals himself through the people in your life. I’m so grateful for the way He has worked through OCF and those I’ve met through this ministry!