BROOKLINE, MA — Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), the official campus ministry of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States will hold its annual College Conference on December 27 – 30, 2023.
College Conference is an annual four-day gathering of college students from all over the country to grow in fellowship, dive deeper into their faith through speakers and workshops around the conference theme, worship together, and serve. College Conference takes place in two locations: East at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA, and Midwest at St. Iakovos Retreat Center in Kansasville, WI.
The 2023 Conference Theme, around which the keynote and workshop sessions will be based, is “Walk in the Light”. Workshop speakers at College Conference East include Fr. Gabriel Bilas, Fr. Nathaniel Choma, Georgia Mamalakis, and an additional speaker to be determined. College Conference Midwest will feature Fr. Seraphim Ramos, Abbess Ameliane of St. Nina’s Monastery, Fr. Justin Patterson, and Steven Christoforou.
Registration is open now through December 1st. Cost for College Conference (East or Midwest) is $385 per person until November 1st and $400 thereafter until December 1st. Registration includes food, lodging, and engaging workshops with great speakers. Scholarships are available for both conferences on a limited and first-come/first-served basis until November 1st. For details and conference registration visit https://www.ocf.net/college-conference/.
Recommended by Peter Mansour, Ministry Coordinator
By returning to the practice and methodology of the early Church, Fr John Behr, a renowned patristics scholar, invites readers to approach the mystery of Jesus Christ in the same way that the first disciples learned their theology. His vision of Christian theology, written in a systematic manner, offers a way out of the problems that have beset theology and scriptural study in recent centuries.
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 19:14
Holy tradition tells us that when Christ spoke these words, it was St. Ignatius of Antioch who was sitting on His lap. Otherwise known as Theophorus “God-Bearer”, St. Ignatius sought the kingdom of heaven as a disciple of the Apostles and later as a Bishop by ordination of St. Peter. Most of what we know about St. Ignatius is in seven letters preserved by St. Polycarp. During his on-foot journey to Rome, he wrote to the churches and left for us a snapshot of early Christian life, practice, and faith. Of his written teachings, he emphasized the place of the Eucharist in our lives as the source of healing and true presence of Christ. Dying a martyr’s death, St. Ignatius was killed in the Roman arena by beasts, depicted in icons as lions, under the rule of Emperor Trajan on December 20, 107. Before his repose, he boldly expressed: “I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” In the spirit of these words and of his martyrdom, many early Christians were encouraged to continue struggling in the pursuit of God. The path of righteousness that St. Ignatius walked and on which he emboldened so many to join was one that required endurance through persecution. Knowing what obstacles they would have to face, he implored that they would pray “without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye stedfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness” (1 Epistle to the Ephesians). We can draw inspiration from St. Ignatius’ extreme humility towards God and towards others.
As young adults and especially as college students, many of us can recall examples of times we’ve experienced unkindness for our faith. Perhaps it was someone who didn’t want to be friends after finding out we were Christian, or a mocking professor, or maybe some of us have felt the alienation that comes when we have to stand up for what we know to be true. The first thing that we can take comfort in is knowing that we are not alone. Christ God was incarnate for our sake and was mocked, beaten, scourged, and rejected before His ultimate triumph over sin and death. For nearly two thousand years, the martyrs and Saints who have come before us have experienced all manner of persecution and oppression, but they knew that true freedom and peace can only come from the Creator of all. St. Ignatius knew this peace in the face of trial, and we can look to him in moments of adversity, that he’d lift our eyes towards heaven and plead with Christ that He would dwell in us as our Strength. Through his intercessions, may we boldly and humbly live out faith.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16: 24-26
Learn His Troparion:
Tone 4 As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Ignatius. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
St. Ignatius Troparion - Tone 4
by Orthodox Christian Fellowship
What does it mean to endure suffering for Christ’s sake? Consider how St. Ignatius approached his execution in Rome. How or with what posture of heart should we approach the persecutions we endure in our own lives?
Look back at the quote from St. Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians. In modeling the love of Christ for those who crucified Him, St. Ignatius calls us to pray for those who commit evils against us. Is it easy or difficult to pray for those who’ve wronged us? Why? How might we begin to do so?
Pray to him.
Ikos 4 Hearing thy confession, the faithful people glorified God; but Trajan, gnashing his teeth, again demanded: “Why art thou called God-bearer?” And thou sayest: “For I bear my God in my heart.” Wherefore, we chant to thee: Rejoice, faithful warrior of the King of heaven! Rejoice, invincible champion of the faith! Rejoice, good shepherd! Rejoice, advocate for our souls! Rejoice, for, enlightened by the divine Spirit, with pastoral boldness thou puteth the savagery of the tyrant to shame! Rejoice, for, guiding the flock of Christ, thou illumineth many with the light of knowledge divine! Rejoice, O God-bearing Ignatius, great and all-glorious athlete!
Kontakion 5 Considering all the beauties of the world to be as dung that thou might acquire Christ, O Ignatius, thou crieth: “Who shall separate me from the love of God? Tribulation is sweet to me; the bonds I bear for Him Whom I desire are pleasant; persecutions are dearer to me than my homeland, and pangs are more delightful to me than health of body!” And we, honoring thy glorious memory, cry out to God: Alleluia!
Ikos 5 Seeing thee to be an invincible confessor of the Faith of Christ, the ungodly Trajan condemned thee to death; but thou didst cry out, rejoicing: “For me it is more pleasant to die than to live! Christ, and to die for Him, is gain! Unto Him do I go; Him do I love; Him do I hope to receive!” Wherefore, O holy Ignatius, we bless thee: Rejoice, thou whose desire it was to depart and be with Christ! Rejoice, pure sacrifice to God! Rejoice, imitator of the sufferings of Christ! Rejoice, for thou wast crucified with Christ! Rejoice, for thou didst shed thy blood for Christ! Rejoice, for by thy blood thou adorneth thy hierarchal vesture! Rejoice, O God-bearing Ignatius, great and all-glorious athlete!
The theme for OCF this year is “Walking in the Light”. We will be doing just that today with St. Ignatius of Antioch. We will watch a short video explaining his life and read parts of his epistles that he wrote on the way to his death.
We encourage you to watch the whole video.
While reading his epistle to the Ephesians, focusing on chapters 3, 8, and 10
In the video we hear how the writings of St. Ignatius are among the first writings just after the Apostles and were, historically, read alongside the New Testament. What do you find most important about the writings of the early church? What has been your experience with them in the past?
In another of St. Ignatius’ letters, he writes that we should not just call ourselves Christian, but rather BE Christian in reality. In chapter 3, “Exhortations To Unity”, St. Ignatius writes that we must “run in accordance with the will of God.” If you could make one change in your life tomorrow in light of this quote, what would it be?
Holy Tradition tells us that St. Ignatius sat on Christ’s lap when he was young and Christ said “you must be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Later in his letters, the Saint tells his followers to not try and rescue him from persecution. He had accepted his fate and did so with eagerness and love. He maintained a childlike love for Christ up until his brutal death. Do you think he was scared? What is your key takeaway from St. Ignatius’ boldness here?
What are your reactions to Chapter 8? Discuss.
In chapter 10, “Exhortations To Prayer, Humility” St. Ignatius talks about the importance of how to deal with people who do us wrong. Does being a student and living in the college environment make it more or less difficult to have humility? In what ways can we practice humility in our everyday lives?
This month, we are learning to “Walk in the Light” with St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Ignatius was the disciple of the disciples! His writings give us one of the earliest glimpses into the faith of the earliest Christians. St. Ignatius is known for his famous letters, sent to the communities he cared for, and written on the way to his martyrdom. As St. Ignatius shared with them to meet their needs, we can pull similar lessons from his writings which are just as relevant to us today in our walk as Orthodox Christians.
Before we begin our discussion, let’s begin with 120 seconds of silence. It’s been a long day.
Take this chance to come into the presence of God and his saints as a group. Sit still. Breathe slowly and deeply. Say the Jesus prayer.
Part I: Living by Dying
The most notable thing about the letters of St. Ignatius is that he’s writing them on his way to be martyred. As St. Paul before him, St. Ignatius is writing in chains (Philippians 1:12-13). One would think that he’d be writing to ask for their help, pleading with them to come to his aid. We find the exact opposite. Rather, he “implores the Christians at Rome not to interfere with his own coming martyrdom:”
“It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to be king over the ends of the earth. I seek him who died for our sake. I desire him who rose for us. The pains of birth are upon me. Suffer me, my brethren; hinder me not from living, do not wish me to die. Do not give to the world one who desires to belong to God, nor deceive him with material things. Suffer me to receive the pure light; when I shall have arrived there, I shall become a human being. Suffer me to follow the example of the passion of my God.”
Epistle to the Romans
“Pains of birth are upon me…hinder me not from living…do not wish me to die.” St. Ignatius has turned everything upside down (Acts 17:6)! He sees his coming death as his way to be born. He begs that they don’t put a stop to his martyrdom lest he die from being kept from death! St. Ignatius, seeing things with heavenly clarity, describes to us a reality where laying down our life in Christ is the source of living and not a loss at all (Philippians 1:21).
What are your reactions to hearing the words of St. Ignatius? Discuss together.
The majority of us won’t have the opportunity to “die” in Christ in the same way as St. Ignatius, and yet, his clarity and wisdom seem to pour out beyond the bounds of martyrdom. How might we apply his lessons of life through death to our own lives?
St. Ignatius mentions that when he has met his martyrdom, he shall then become a human being. Each of us would typically consider ourselves human beings—what’s the difference here? How might his understanding of a human being differ from ours?
Part II: Living As Lights
St. Ignatius sees that his journey to perfection lies in his martyrdom but for his flock, he does not lay the same heavy burden. Rather, he spends his letters encouraging them to walk in the light of Christ. He exhorts them to live lives of holiness so that they might experience the power and beauty of God. He also reminds them that the way they live their lives matters because they must shine the light of Christ on everyone they meet. He takes extra care to remind them that what we profess with our lips must be lived out through our actions and that our actions are a witness (martyria) to all those they come in contact with.
“Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply.”
Letter to Polycarp
“Pray without ceasing on behalf of other men. For there is hope of the repentance, that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way.”
Letter to the Ephesians
“It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach if he who speaks also acts.”
Letter to the Ephesians
“Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart.”
Letter to the Romans
St. Ignatius emphasizes the importance of prayer and setting an example through our actions. How do these practices relate to his “Life Through Death” theme?
If you could make one change tomorrow that would have a significant impact on your ability to “Live as a Light”, what would it be?
St. Ignatius highlights the importance of silence which is a common theme in many of the writings of the saints. St. Arsenius, the Egyptian desert father is famous for saying, “Many times have I repented of having spoken, but never have I repented of having remained silent.” Have you ever been in a situation where it would have been much wiser to stay silent than to speak?
Conclude your meeting with this prayer of St. Ignatius of Antioch:
I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.
I long after the Lord, the Son of the true God and Father, Jesus Christ.
Him I seek, who died for us and rose again. I am eager to die for the sake of Christ.
My love has been crucified and there is no fire in me that loves anything.
But there is living water springing up in me and it says to me inwardly, “Come to the Father”