Name: Konstantinos Cesak
University/College: George Washington University (but I am a part of Georgetown’s OCF)
Major: International Affairs
Minor: Modern Greek
What are your plans for after graduation?
Find a job, make enough money to survive, get out of D.C.
What’s your favorite OCF memory?
When I was a freshman commuting between George Washington & Georgetown, I would get there early. I was terrible at running my own affairs on my own so I was lacking sleep and getting between the two campuses too early or too late. If I got there too early, I slept in our chapel curled up on top of my backpack under the icon of Christ. I remember falling asleep looking up to Him & a candle lit and waking up refreshed. The OCF was my spiritual refuge and for a couple of months was my physical refuge until I got my life together.
Words of wisdom for the next class of OCFers:
Just as Father Constantine told me that the Church is our home no matter where we go, the OCF in college is no exception. The Georgetown OCF was there for me when my own university wasn’t. I leave a part of myself in Copley Crypt, where we had vespers & celebrated pre-consecrated Divine Liturgy.
This past weekend, myself and 15 other college students had the blessing of attending the Pittsburgh District Event at Camp Naz. In 24 hours, we served Vespers and Morning Prayers, attended three sessions by Fr. Stephen Loposky, ate together, raked the hiking trails at Camp Naz, participated in team building activities, and played two rousing games of Scatergories.
Fr. Loposky’s sessions continued to explore the theme he began talking about at College Conference East, “A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness.” We talked about how and when to talk about the Faith. One thing Fr. Lopkosy said that stuck out to me was:
You can’t talk about the Faith without knowing where God is in your life. And if you don’t spend time with the Faith, you can’t live it.
At any OCF event – District Events, Regional Retreats, Real Break, College Conference, weekly chapter meetings – I know God is there. I see it in the pure wisdom my peers share with the group, in the fellowship and love we have for each other, in the services prayed. I see him working in bringing us all together through the storms of our busy lives to a shelter of peace and prayer. It’s also a chance to really spend time with the Faith. Living the Faith is easy at OCF events. Everyone is doing the same thing you are. It’s once you step outside that comfort zone that the going gets tough.
Going to OCF events helps us prepare to be that voice crying out in the wilderness. Once we leave the familiarity and comfort of OCF, it’s much harder to be confident in what you believe and have the courage to be a witness. But with every OCF event I attend, I feel a little bit stronger and the wilderness becomes a little less intimidating.
The school year and thus the OCF year is drawing to a close. Next year, I encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for OCF events near you. College can be a wilderness of tricky questions and highly-opinionated people and professors that you don’t have to navigate alone. Make an effort to go to a Regional Retreat or College Conference to learn about, spend time with, and grow in the Faith.
As the end of the semester approaches, college life gets busier and busier. Papers, exams, and presentations pile up along with the pressure of moving and preparing for a summer internship, job, or classes. This year, it just happens to align with me for the busiest time of the Liturgical year – Holy Week and Pascha. When I first looked at the two calendars and realized finals and Holy Week would share the same dates, I was filled with horror and despair.
I was standing in church this past Sunday thinking about the two papers I have due this week, the bibliography I had yet to write for a paper I didn’t even know the topic of, the choir music I had to memorize, and the various meetings I had planned for the week.
While my brain was creating a mental to do list, my lips were moving along to the Cherubic Hymn. As I sang the words and melody by heart, I was suddenly jarred from my school stress and brought forcibly into the now. The hymnography hit me hard. “Let us lay aside all earthly cares.” I realized I was standing in the presence of God and the miracle of Holy Eucharist, yet my mind was stuck in the blackhole of school stress.
The Church, in its never-ending brilliance, gives us everything we need. Our minds naturally wander, but the church is constantly pulling us back. That’s why the priest or deacon says “Let us attend!” so many times! The Cherubic Hymn warns us of what is to come – the Holy Mystery of Communion – and gives us explicit instructions on how to prepare.
During this busy time of the semester, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and often the last thing we want to do is get up on a Sunday morning to go to Liturgy. It’s so tempting and simple to get that extra hour of sleep or studying. We cannot forget the Church, even more so as we approach Holy Week and the Lord’s triumphant Resurrection. I know for myself, attending services in the middle of a crazy week help break up the monotonous studying and refreshes me. It reminds me of what is truly important and of the eternal love of Christ for his people.
When we think of stewardship and giving back to the Church, our mind naturally goes to money. It’s really no secret that as college students we have no money. That’s why we love going home so much: free food and free laundry (and to see dear old Mom and Dad, of course). When I put my sole crumpled dollar bill into the tray on Sunday mornings, I joke that we actually are following the Church’s suggestion donation to tithe 10% of your income. Just because I don’t have a lot of money to donate to the Church doesn’t mean I can’t be an Orthodox steward. I give back to the church in two other ways – with time and talents.
In college, time is almost as precious as money. But it is one thing we can give freely. Being on the SLB is a lot of work – and requires a lot of time. Time spent organizing retreats, writing blogs, recording podcasts, scheduling speakers for College Conference or planning Real Break trips, and calling parishes and youth directors to talk to about OCF. And conference calls, we spend a lot of time on conference calls. But working on my OCF stuff never feels like work. I usually do whatever I have to do for OCF before any other homework, because I can still tell myself I’m being productive.
My schedule is busy; every college student’s schedule is busy. Dedicate some time to give back to the church through working for this awesome ministry. In my time as Publications Student Leader, I’ve written blogs that have reached thousands of people, worked with and met leaders of the Church, and even been interviewed on Ancient Faith Radio. His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa always tells us that we are not the future of the Church, we are the Church. Never have I felt more a part of the Church than I have while serving on the SLB.
As an English major, the Publications Student Leader position made the most sense for me. Publications gave me the chance to take my God-given abilities and strengths and use them to serve Him. Serving on the SLB isn’t just for people with concrete skills like writing, but for people who have a passion for OCF, a drive to improve, new ideas, leadership qualities, and most importantly a love for Christ. And being on the on the Board has helped me harness all of those skills.
As Orthodox Christians, we are called to serve God and our neighbor. Apply to the Student Leadership Board not only to give of your time and talents to God and His Church but to your fellow Orthodox Christian college students. Use what God has blessed you with to strengthen this ministry, to grow as a young leader of the Orthodox Church, and to make incredible lasting friendships. OCF gave me a place of comfort during my first year of college and some of my very best friends (both at my school’s chapter and on this year’s SLB). It’s taught me so much about the faith and myself as person, all while helping me become a better Christian. I can’t wait to spend another year on the SLB working for OCF, the Church, Christ, and young Orthodox Christians everywhere.
Applications due back April 6th.
One of my very best friends at school and I first met at our OCF meetings. And through that, we started going to Liturgy together.
During our freshmen year we lived on campus, about a fifteen minute walk from our church. Every Sunday morning – whether it was raining, snowing, sunny, or freezing outside – we met in the quad and walked past the sleeping houses to Liturgy. While we walked, we chatted about our weeks, complained about homework, talked about our families. It was during these walks to church that we became friends.
Here we are!
We’re now juniors and roommates in an apartment we rent from a lady who goes to our church. I teach church school. Parishioners come up to us during coffee hour to ask questions about OCF and the priest’s wife gives us all a round of hugs. We’ve made friends with other young adults outside of our OCF friends. I feel like a full-fledged member of a church and a community.
This feeling of belonging I attribute to walking to church with my friend. If I had to go alone, it would have been harder. I’m not sure I would have stuck around during coffee hour to meet people or gotten out of my bed on those sub zero mornings.
St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA
And that’s my biggest piece of Orthodox College Prep advice: find a friend to go to church with. You’ll feel alone and lost and confused during your first semester of school. That’s okay. The Church is a place that welcomes you and surrounds you with her arms. Just look up at the outstretched arms of the Theotokos behind the altar, embracing you into the glory of her Son. Then look to your left or your right and see the Mother of God also embracing your new friend.